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Latest News
The Coup Failed, the Fascists Remain...It's Still a Battle
Trump Is headed out, Perhaps to Jail. But his fascist bloc in Congress--10 % of the Senate, 20% of the House--remains defiant. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) here spews the big lies shamelessly.

'The DC Coup Attempt and its 'Chaotic Tribalism':
How American Democracy Is More ‘Fragile’ Than Ever

Topeka, Kansas / USA April 23, 2020. Open up Kansas protest/ rally. Hundreds of Kansans showed up at the Kansas State Capital in Topeka Kansas to protest the covid19 shutdown. Shutterstock/ John Edward Callahan



Conservative warns the United States is approaching the point of no return
 
By Alex Henderson
Alternet

Jan 08, 2021 - The word "fragile" is often used to describe liberal democracies, which can take an authoritarian turn and cease to be democratic — for example, Turkey under Recep Tayyip Erdogan or Hungary under Viktor Orbán. Journalist Felix Salmon, in a sobering article published by Axios on January 8, analyzes recent events and lays out a list of reasons why he believes that the United States' democracy is more "fragile" than ever.

President-elect Joe Biden, the Axios reporter warns, is inheriting a country that finds itself in a "state of chaotic tribalism."

Salmon explains, "Americans, who are used to being winners, now look around and see a country that can't secure its own seat of government, that struggles to distribute a vaccine, that was cyberlooted by Russia, that was half a year late with a stimulus plan both sides wanted, that can't even orchestrate a peaceful transition of power…. This is weakness, not strength. The democracy that President-elect Biden will take over is tattered, archaic, precarious."

Salmon's article was published only two days after the U.S. Capitol Building, on January 6, was stormed by a violent mob of far-right extremists (including White nationalists) who were determined to prevent Congress from ratifying Biden's Electoral College victory. The mob only succeed in delaying Congress' vote, and both branches of Congress certified the Electoral College results. But the very fact that the extremists broke into the Capitol Building and ransacked it shows how much of a powder keg the U.S. has become politically.

Salmon laments that according to a CBS News poll, big chunks of the U.S. population buy into debunked conspiracy theories and don't believe that Biden is legitimately president-elect.

"The consent of the governed lies at the heart of American democracy, but Biden will lack that fundamental authority," Samon writes. "40% of Americans and 80% of Trump voters say they believe Biden is not the legitimate winner of the 2020 election — the greatest proportion of holdouts in the history of American polling. 145 members of Congress, including seven senators, voted to throw out Pennsylvania's Electoral College votes — a move designed to hand victory to the loser of the election."

Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group, told Axios, "You can't lump U.S. democracy in with Canada, Germany and Japan anymore. We're now midway between them and Hungary."

Salmon stresses that there is no guarantee that a liberal democracy will remain a liberal democracy.

"Presidential democracies — think France and Brazil — are prone to crisis at the best of times," Salmon warns. "None has lasted nearly as long as America's. It was fragile and old even before Trump was elected, burdened with an anachronistic Electoral College, a dangerously long transition between election and inauguration, and a deeply gerrymandered quilt of state and federal constituencies." ...Read more
A Very American Coup
Confederate Flag merges with Trump Fealty Banners and Old Glory at Rally Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) Evan Vucci)

The Trump era ends with a bang, not a whimper, revealing a misplaced faith in our elected officials to protect the democratic project.

By Ryu Spaeth
The New Republic

January 7, 2021 - There was a brief moment on Wednesday—before hundreds of MAGA goons stormed the Capitol and chased out lawmakers certifying Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election, before cable networks and social media feeds were inundated with images of would-be insurrectionists stalking the halls of Congress with Confederate flags and cavorting on the rostrum in the Senate chamber, before shots were fired and tear gas deployed and blood spilled, before the attempted coup was well and truly underway—when it appeared that this country’s democratic traditions would prevail after four years of siege by Donald Trump. To bipartisan acclaim, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared that the GOP’s last-ditch efforts to overturn the results of the election, if successful, would “damage our republic forever.” It appeared that, in the dying days of the Trump presidency, at least some Republicans were finally taking a stand.

“McConnell is rising to the historical occasion,” wrote the historian Michael Beschloss on Twitter. “This is about as impassioned as Mitch McConnell gets,” said National Review’s Rich Lowry, claiming that McConnell, who has done as much as any individual to undermine the promise of democratic rule in the United States, “is deeply committed to our institutions, traditions, and system of government. One of his finest moments.” Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo was more clear-eyed about McConnell’s legacy but agreed that he was in fighting form: “Mitch McConnell bears so much responsibility for all of this. In some ways he is the most responsible. But right here, in this speech, he says just the right thing.” McConnell’s speech was widely described as “emotional,” surely the first time the epithet has ever been applied to a man whose impassive mask suggests nothing but a bottomless emptiness beneath. But it’s not clear that people listened closely to his words, which reveal the folly in trusting elected officials to save the republic.

McConnell’s floor speech came on the heels of Vice President Mike Pence announcing that, contrary to what Trump had claimed, he did not have the “unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not.” Here was another democratic guardrail seemingly holding firm. Trump took Pence’s repudiation as a betrayal, and there was some karmic justice in discovering that the many years Pence has spent smiling blandly at his boss’s myriad transgressions availed him nothing in the end. At a rally held just outside the Capitol, Trump essentially accused Pence of helping the Democrats steal the election: “Mike Pence, I hope you’re gonna stand up for the good of our Constitution and for the good of our country. And if you’re not, I’m going to be very disappointed in you.” At the same rally, Trump railed, “We will never give up! We will never concede! You don’t concede when there’s theft involved!”

This was an incitement to riot, the last goad for a crowd that had received nothing but goads from the likes of Senators Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz, who had ostentatiously refused to certify the election in a transparent bid to endear themselves to Trump’s supporters; from every anonymous Republican official who had told the press that there was no harm in “humoring” Trump’s otiose attempts to throw out the election results; from all the elected Republican lawmakers who, over the past four years, had defended the president when they could get away with it and pretended not to see his tweets when they couldn’t. And riot the crowd did, tossing aside the flimsy barricades that circled the Capitol and easily overwhelming a curiously acquiescent Capitol Police force. The scenes that played out across cable news and Twitter were some of the most surreal of this surreal presidency: a grinning Trumpista resting his boots on a desk in Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s evacuated office; panicked lawmakers and their staffers donning clear “escape hoods,” like astronauts alighting on a hostile planet; a guy bedecked in animal skins and horns ruling the roost and calling, “Where’s Pence? Show yourself!”

For six antic hours, it was as if the inmates really had seized control of the asylum. They chased the guards across the marble floors, pecked at the abandoned phones, made off with the lecterns. Trump released a video in which he half-heartedly urged his supporters to leave in peace, all while maintaining that the election had been stolen from them. Order was ultimately restored, meaning that a dozen or so rioters were arrested and the rest were allowed to waltz out of the place unscathed, hooting for the cameras and bearing trophies. What sort of coup was this, anyway? The mob had indeed overrun the legislature and attempted to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power—very much fulfilling key components of a coup—but had no allies that could seize other centers of influence and never came close to securing the seat of government. McConnell returned to the floor to condemn a “failed insurrection” and triumphantly declared, “We will not bow to lawlessness or intimidation.” The certification of the vote resumed.

In the outraged aftermath, there was talk of impeaching Trump and invoking the Twenty-Fifth Amendment to remove him from office for the final two weeks of his term. There was a frantic scramble to locate at least one righteous Republican, with the role falling to Mitt Romney, who excoriated Trump and his abettors for “being complicit in an unprecedented attack against our democracy” and later gave Hawley a masked stare of death that instantly became a meme. And there was a sense that, if we could just make it through a nervy 14 days, there would be a new Democratic president and a new Democratic-controlled Congress on the other side. It was easy to forget that the day started with Democrats—against all odds and all structural disadvantages—winning the Senate by prevailing in two runoff elections in Georgia (Jon Ossoff’s victory was confirmed during the chaos of the short-lived coup). With the end of the Trump era mercifully in sight, at least one Democratic senator, Tom Carper of Delaware, was willing to let the whole coup business slide: “I just think we need to turn the page,” he said.

The insistent message throughout the day was that, though the guardrails may come down and the barricades be flung to the side, they could be put back up again. McConnell, Pence, Romney, and, off in the middle distance, President-elect Joe Biden—they took turns representing guardians of the democratic order. Biden himself said, “The scenes of chaos do not reflect the true America, do not represent who we are.” But with a gang of deplorables taking selfies in a ransacked Congress, it all smacked of desperate, wishful thinking. This is who we are. It was a testament to the hopelessness of the Trump era that people turned to Mitch McConnell—Mitch McConnell!—as a savior.

No one would have guessed him to be impassioned about anything other than his own cold accumulation of power, and his speech, if you listened closely enough, was true to his nature: an argument not on behalf of democracy but against it. The crux was that Democrats are the principal forces working to overturn fairly won elections by challenging sacred institutions like the Electoral College and the Senate, both of which tilt the playing field in favor of an increasingly rural GOP. If the Republicans were to go down that particular road to perdition, McConnell argued, it would imperil the very anti-democratic structures that have given his loathsome party any chance at wielding power in the first place. “We must not imitate and escalate what we repudiate,” he warned, adding that the Senate could “either guarantee that Democrats’ delegitimizing efforts after 2016 become a permanent new routine for both sides or declare that our nation deserves a lot better than this.”

It was both ironic and fitting that the deliverer of this ersatz paean to democratic values, who has played such an instrumental role in using the system’s weaknesses to perpetuate minority rule, was literally swept away by the forces that he and his colleagues had allowed to fester under Trump. As far as saving the country goes, McConnell’s stand was far too little, far too late. All that remains to be seen is whether the same will be said of the incoming administration.

Ryu Spaeth is the features editor of The New Republic. He also edits Critical Mass. ...Read More
The Mob Is Gone, but the Crisis of
the Republican Party Has Only Begun
Even after the storming of the Capitol, a group of senators, including Josh Hawley, of Missouri, still voted to disenfranchise millions of their fellow-Americans.Photograph by Win McNamee / Getty

The New Yorker

Jan 7, 3030 - Just after 1:30 a.m. on Thursday, Representative Conor Lamb, Democrat of western Pennsylvania, rose on the floor of the House to defend the franchise of the people in his state. Even at that late hour, and even after a Trumpist mob urged on by the President had attacked the Capitol, a group of Republican House members, joined by Senator Josh Hawley, of Missouri, was trying to get the state’s electoral votes thrown out. Their objections, Lamb said, “don’t deserve an ounce of respect—not an ounce.” His colleagues, he said, had to be clear about what had happened that day: “Invaders came in for the first time since the war of 1812. They desecrated these halls.” And, he added, “for the most part, they walked in here free. A lot of them walked out free. And there wasn’t a person watching at home who didn’t know why that was: because of the way that they look.”

Lamb was referring to the apparent leniency that the mostly white mob had been afforded by law-enforcement officers in the course of an attempt to violently undo the election. Many of the Trumpists had displayed, for the cameras, a thuggish air of territorialism, as if it hadn’t occurred to them that battering through the windows of the Capitol; assaulting police officers; trying to hunt down the Vice-President, Mike Pence; physically threatening legislators; or vandalizing the Speaker’s office might carry with it legal liability. It’s not known how many may have had guns or other weapons. There had been no effective effort to repel them and, in the immediate wake, few arrests. (A woman died after being shot by the Capitol police; three people died of what authorities described as medical emergencies.) Those circumstances will require an urgent and profound inquiry in the days to come—how much is attributable to a security failure, to the mis-deployment of law-enforcement, to a sense of impunity encouraged by Donald Trump, to a strain of violence in our political culture, or to, as Lamb suggested, racism? (Some of the rioters carried Confederate and white-supremacist symbols, as well as “TRUMP” flags.) But the immediate reaction to Lamb’s words was a low rumble of voices from the Republican side of the aisle.

Lamb, who had earlier debunked the conspiracy theories that Trump has pushed about the Pennsylvania vote, continued, “We know that that attack today, it didn’t materialize out of nowhere. It was inspired by lies, the same lies that you’re hearing in this room tonight. And the members who are repeating those lies should be ashamed of themselves; their constituents should be ashamed of them.” As he continued speaking, the Republican hubbub grew. “Point of order,” Representative Morgan Griffith, of Virginia, said, after Lamb got a few more sentences out. “The gentleman said that there were lies, on this floor, here today, looking over in this direction. I ask that those words be taken down!”

Members of Congress are not supposed to insult one another directly, but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, who was presiding, said that the complaint had come too late. (She added that she had been called the same thing on the floor.) Griffith and his cohort continued to try to shout down Lamb; as so often with Trump’s allies, they appeared to imagine that they were the real victims. In an instant, members on both sides were leaving their seats in what became a near skirmish, before Pelosi restored order. Perhaps the events of the day had left some Republicans chastened—but not all of them. “The truth hurts,” Lamb said. “But the fact is this: we want this government to work more than they want it to fail.”

All the elements that Lamb cited—the lies, the shame, the failure, and the determination to make our democracy work—had been on display in the preceding hours. It was a remarkable relief that, after such a tumultuous, bitter, dangerous day (chronicled by my colleagues John CassidyEvan OsnosSusan GlasserMasha Gessen, and Vinson Cunningham), both houses of Congress had reassembled in the same chambers to get the job of counting the electors done. If those halls had been desecrated, they were also, in part, reconsecrated. A little after 3:30 a.m., the electors for Wyoming, the final state alphabetically, were added to the tally, and, with that, the last box was checked in certifying Joe Biden’s victory. Pence and the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, had broken with Trump on the question of whether he could stage a coup, if on nothing else. But there was no instant great awakening on the part of the Republican caucus. In the late-night session, the Party’s pathologies and Trumpist distortions were still present.

Before the storming of the Capitol, thirteen Republican senators had said that they planned to object to the electors of various states, as did some hundred and forty representatives. Senator James Lankford, of Oklahoma, was in the middle of a speech urging the disenfranchisement of Arizona’s voters, when the senators were told that the rioters were in the building. By the time that he and his colleagues returned, he had decided to withdraw his objection. But six senators—Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Cindy Hyde-Smith, John Kennedy, Roger Marshall, and Tommy Tuberville—still voted to reject Arizona’s electors and thus disenfranchise the state’s voters. (Before the assault on the Capitol began, Hawley had greeted the gathering mob with a fist-in-the-air salute.) So did a hundred and twenty-one representatives—a majority of the Republican caucus in the House—including the Minority Leader, Kevin McCarthy, of California.

The debate on Arizona, when it resumed, became a venue for senators to also address the violence. Michael Bennet, of Colorado, invoked the fall of the Roman Republic, with “armed gangs” who “ran through the streets,” and asked that the election results be received with “the biggest bipartisan vote we can.” He added, “Every single member of this Senate knows this election wasn’t stolen.” Dick Durbin, of Illinois, remembered Abraham Lincoln’s struggles, and his victories. Cory Booker, of New Jersey, noted that both during the War of 1812 and this week, the forces attacking the capital were “waving flags to a sole sovereign”—one a British King and the other an American President who has forgotten what the limits on that office are, and has built a cult of personality.

Ron Wyden, of Oregon, called the mob “domestic terrorists” and noted that “Donald Trump can do enormous damage to our country in the next two weeks”—as, indeed, he can. Wyden said that the use of the Twenty-fifth Amendment to remove a President who has become incapable of doing his job was being discussed, in some circles, in earnest. (There are reports that those talks are taking place within the Administration; some mid-level officials have already resigned. On Thursday morning, Trump said in a statement that there would be an “orderly transition” but continued to claim fraud.) Tammy Duckworth, of Illinois, a combat veteran, described her shock at witnessing a domestic coup attempt. She said that she wasn’t asking her Republican colleagues for any “grand gesture”—she was just asking them not to sacrifice American democracy to protect Trump’s “porcelain ego.”

Those were the Democrats. On the Republican side, the responses to the attack ranged widely. Senator Mitt Romney said that he had been “shaken to the core” by what he called an “insurrection.” He bluntly told his fellow-Republicans that if they objected to the electors they would be complicit, and that “the best way we can show respect for the voters who were upset is by telling them the truth; the truth is that President-elect Biden won the election; President Trump lost.” Mike Lee said that he had struggled with the decision, but wouldn’t object. Marco Rubio thought that politics had made “everybody” crazy—an abdication of both personal and partisan responsibility. Pat Toomey defended the election’s integrity, while assuring those listening to his speech that he had voted for Trump and had hoped that he’d win. Senator Lindsey Graham embarked on a freewheeling ship-jumping riff: “All I can say is count me out”—out of the coup attempt, presumably—“enough is enough, I’ve tried to be helpful.” He has indeed tried—to be helpful to Trump, including by stoking his efforts to undermine confidence in the election result and even donating money for the President’s legal challenges.

It is, obviously, a good thing that Graham has had enough, that Pence did not try to rip up the electoral certifications, and that McConnell worked with Democratic leaders to quickly reconvene Congress and condemned what he called “this failed insurrection.” But they all supported Trump for far too long; their subservience has been pathetic, and they cannot be surprised by where Trump has taken them and the country. He has been openly calling for the sort of attempted putsch that we witnessed on Wednesday. He reportedly had to be pushed to tell the rioters to leave, and only did so in ambiguous statements that mixed incitement with an expression of love for them. What has changed is that Trump is now clearly on the losing side, and McConnell and Graham know it.

Other Republicans still haven’t given up. Over in the House, Matt Gaetz, of Florida, babbled about how “some pretty compelling evidence from a facial-recognition company” showed that people in the mob weren’t Trump supporters at all but “members of the violent terrorist group Antifa.” There had been some hope that the congressional Trumpists would not press on with objections about other states. (An objection requires the signature of at least one representative and one senator, and triggers two hours of debate.) Senator Kelly Loeffler, of Georgia, who lost her reëlection bid on Tuesday, announced that she would withdraw her objection to her state’s tally. And, when the conspiracy-minded Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, also of Georgia, lodged her objection to Michigan’s electors, she got no senatorial takers. But, after midnight, Hawley signed on for Pennsylvania. That meant another two-hour debate for his colleagues, many of whom had earlier been forced to barricade themselves in safe rooms or behind furniture. (Grace Meng, of New York, told CNN that she texted her family goodbye, thinking that she might not survive; other legislators had similar stories.)

When the debate on the Pennsylvania electors began, Representative Scott Perry, of that state, who had co-signed the objection with Hawley, had the temerity to wave a copy of the Constitution and inform his colleagues that it was “just a piece of paper; it cannot defend itself.” That was too much for Representative Joe Neguse, Democrat of Colorado. “I carry the same Constitution that you do,” he said, holding up his copy. “And the Constitution, sir, does not allow you, me, or any member of this body to substitute our judgment for that of the American people. It does not allow us to disregard the will of the American people.”
The truth of what Neguse said seems self-evident. Still, seven Republican senators—Cruz, Hawley, Hyde-Smith, Cynthia Lummis, Marshall, Rick Scott, and Tuberville—voted to reject Pennsylvania’s electors. So did a hundred and thirty-eight Republican representatives.

In a statement on Wednesday, General James Mattis, the former Secretary of Defense, said that Trump “will deservedly be left a man without a country.” But he is not yet a man without a party, or a faction. This is a precipitous moment, but whatever struggle lies between now and January 20th—and it may be a profound one—Trump’s poisonous Presidency will soon end. The crisis of the Republican Party has barely begun. ...Read More

A Working-Class Hero: E P Thompson in 1983

History from below: What shaped the thought of E P Thompson, the great historian of ordinary working people and champion of their significance?

Priya Satia is Raymond A Spruance Professor of International History and professor of history at Stanford University in California. Her latest book is Time’s Monster: History, Conscience and Britain’s Empire (2020). Her academic and popular writing has appeared in American Historical Review, Technology & Culture, Financial Times, Slate and The Nation, among others. 

Aeon.com - After the Second World War, historians asked us to shift our focus from great men to the actions and experiences of ordinary people, to culture rather than institutions. This methodological shift to ‘history from below’ was political, supporting a democratic vision of political, social, intellectual and cultural agency as the Cold War stoked authoritarian impulses in the East and West. It sought to rectify historians’ paternalistic habit of writing about the people ‘as one of the problems Government has had to handle’, as E P Thompson put it, as objects rather than subjects of history. Influential as this trend was, great-man history retained a cultural hold too and, today, the would-be ‘great men’ dominating political stages around the world, however caricature in form, challenge democratic visions of how history has been and should be made. ‘History from below’ succeeded in throwing out the chimera of great men while preserving the chimera of the nation that was the most common excuse for their invocation. Revisiting its origins might reveal why.

Thompson is perhaps the figure most popularly associated with ‘history from below’, specifically his totemic workThe Making of the English Working Class (1963). Expansive as its cast is, its geographical scope is constricting. Though set in the era of the British conquest of vast swathes of the world, it barely acknowledges that reality. This is doubly strange, given that Thompson wrote it while decolonization was forcing Britons to contend with the ethics of empire, and was himself descended from a line of colonial missionaries deeply engaged with such matters.

His classic text created an island template for the most progressive British history of the late-20th century, unwittingly legitimizing the nostalgic view of ‘Little England’ that has culminated in Brexit. The book’s enormous impact also ironically endowed Thompson with fairly robust great-man status himself, as the iconic historian-activist of his time.
Is there a history from below, or at least a wider genealogy, that might explain the paradoxical political and intellectual event that was ‘E P Thompson’? How does the picture shift if we recall the choir of voices harmonizing with his – his working-class students, fellow British social historians such as Raphael Samuel and Christopher Hill, and European antecedents such as Georges Lefebvre and the Annales school? Or the masses of people – including Thompson – whose collective experience of the global calamities of the 1940s forced a reconsideration of progress-wrought-by-great-men as the most practical or believable model of historical narration? ...Read More

For Democrats in Georgia, ‘There’s No Going Back’
The two Democratic victories in the Senate runoffs confirmed that Georgia’s metamorphosis from conservative bastion to battleground state was complete.

By Lisa Lerer and Richard Fausset
The New York Times via Portside

Jan 6, 2021 - ATLANTA — Now we know for sure: Georgia going Democratic wasn’t just a fluke for Joseph R. Biden Jr. in November. There are forces at work that are rapidly turning the state blue, redrawing the American electoral map.

The victories on Wednesday by the Rev. Raphael Warnock, who became the first Black Democrat to be elected to the Senate from the South, and Jon Ossoff, also in his first elective office, confirmed that Georgia’s metamorphosis from conservative bastion to battleground state was complete. The changing demographics are likely to reshape the political dynamics of this Deep South state for a generation.

Until this week, Republicans held every statewide elective office and majorities in both houses of the legislature. But the victories by Mr. Warnock and Mr. Ossoff in the runoff races, coming on the heels of a narrow win by President-elect Biden, showed that Democrats could forge a coalition to win Georgia even when the focus shifted away from removing President Trump from office.

Perhaps even more significant, Tuesday’s results showed that Democrats could mobilize their diverse and largely metropolitan voting base to boost two overtly liberal candidates — a Jewish man and Black man — to the Senate from Georgia for the first time in history.
 
“There’s no going back,” said Jacquelyn Bettadapur, chairwoman of the Democratic Party in Cobb County, a once conservative suburban county where Mr. Biden won in November by double digits. “A Democrat would be a fool not to play in Georgia going forward.”

From the earliest moments of the Trump era, Georgia emerged as a hotbed of Democratic opposition, attracting national attention and a flood of political spending after Mr. Ossoff announced his run for a House seat two weeks before Mr. Trump’s inauguration. Since then, the state has been caught up in the political upheaval brought by a polarizing president.

In 2018, Gov. Brian Kemp, with the backing of Mr. Trump, won a narrow victory against Stacey Abrams. This week, Mr. Kemp’s name prompted jeers from a Republican audience at a Trump rally after he refused the president’s efforts to overturn millions of votes in the state. Democrats, meanwhile, are celebrating Ms. Abrams as a liberal hero for turning out voters and swinging the state.

The two Democratic Senate candidates were a striking shift from previous recruits, who tended to be white moderates, and stepped gingerly, and sometimes awkwardly, around the God and guns issues crucial to white voters who had become disenchanted with Democrats.

Mr. Ossoff, with his degrees from Georgetown and the London School of Economics, speaks without a hint of Southern twang; he could hail from Santa Monica, or Portland. He would also be the first Jewish person to be elected to the Senate from Georgia.

Mr. Warnock is the kind of preacher who sees activism as central to the mission of the Black church. As pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once preached, he has embraced Dr. King’s philosophy of economic justice as a corollary to racial justice.

In effect, the two men ran as themselves. As unabashed liberals. In Georgia.

The embrace of a more progressive strategy is a result of years of organizing by Black activists, particularly Ms. Abrams, whose 2018 campaign established a blueprint for turning out young, minority and previously neglected Georgians who leaned Democratic. Her defeat supercharged efforts to register voters, bringing an influx of money, national attention and local volunteers.

Yet the biggest assist for Democrats may have come from Mr. Trump himself, who alienated moderate Georgia suburbanites, energized a new generation of voters and alarmed many residents of color, all of which helped Democrats piece together a coalition. Without Mr. Trump as the primary antagonist in future elections, it remains unclear whether Democrats will be able to maintain their political energy in the state.

Mr. Trump is responsible for Tuesday’s outcome in another way as well. He repeatedly made baseless claims that his own loss in Georgia was the result of a “rigged” election system, prompting public battles with Mr. Kemp and other state Republican officials. A leaked recording made the weekend before the election showed that Mr. Trump had pressured Georgia’s secretary of state, a Republican, to “find” votes that would help him overturn his defeat.

A top Georgia elections official, Gabriel Sterling, a Republican, said that Mr. Trump’s false insistence of a corrupt election and the conflict those claims caused within the party might have depressed Republican turnout. A poor showing by Republicans would “fall squarely on the shoulders of President Trump and his actions since Nov. 3,” Mr. Sterling said on CNN.

But Democrats played down Mr. Trump’s impact, instead crediting their push to expand and refocus the party’s infrastructure, which allowed them to capitalize on the state’s demographic shifts.
 
Representative Nikema Williams, the state Democratic Party chairwoman who was sworn into Congress this week, said Mr. Biden’s victory gave Democrats, particularly Black voters, confidence that they could win competitive races. Early voting showed that turnout among Black voters increased from November, a notable shift from the drop-off that is typical in runoff races.

“This election was not about Donald Trump,” Ms. Williams said. “This was about people on the ground realizing that if they show up en masse, they can overcome the voter suppression and we can win Georgia.”

Regardless of how much influence Mr. Trump continues to command after he leaves office, it’s clear that politics in Georgia have fundamentally changed in ways that will force both parties to shift their strategies.

Andra Gillespie, an associate professor of political science in Atlanta, said that the Democrats’ success this week portended a future of “close outcomes and split victories, where Republicans win some statewide contests and Democrats win some statewide contests.”

Republicans, she said, will have to adjust to the reality of running in a competitive environment. From now on, she said, it will be difficult, if not impossible, for Republicans to expect double-digit wins in statewide races, the way that Saxby Chambliss, the U.S. senator, did in his 2008 runoff against the Democrat Jim Martin.

Demographic change goes a long way in explaining the transformation of Georgia politics. White residents, by some estimates, could cease to be the majority in the state by around 2028. Ms. Gillespie said the Democratic Party had built a strategy to take advantage of that change and expand its electorate.

“The Democratic Party has turned latent voters into registered voters, and then into actual voters,” she said.
 
The Democratic victories are likely to give the party even more swagger as its members relish the chance of a potential rematch in the Georgia governor’s race in 2022. Mr. Kemp may once again face Ms. Abrams, who lost to him in 2018 by about 55,000 votes. That’s assuming he survives a likely primary challenge being stoked by Mr. Trump.

Mr. Kemp is a formidable fund-raiser with deep cultural ties to rural Georgia voters, who remain a potent force. But on Tuesday night, the Democrats’ trash talking had already begun.

“Kemp might need to go ahead and look for a second home because 2022 is a wrap for him — both in the primary and general,” Ms. Williams said, laughing.

Ms. Abrams’s national star, already ascending, is likely to soar. Mr. Ossoff and Mr. Warnock are close allies with whom she campaigned and strategized, after she disappointed national Democrats by declining to run for the seat herself. The two men ran on a playbook Ms. Abrams helped write, jettisoning efforts to run hard to the center, while focusing on minority voters and registering new ones.

If Ms. Abrams does run against Mr. Kemp again, she will almost certainly put that strategy to work in an effort to become Georgia’s first Black governor.

Lisa Lerer is a reporter based in Washington, covering campaigns, elections and political power. Richard Fausset is a correspondent based in Atlanta. He mainly writes about the American South, focusing on politics, culture, race, poverty and criminal justice.

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From the Cultural War Front: How a Movie Revitalised
Fascism in America and Got Donald Trump Elected
The first rule of the alt-right is you do not talk about the alt-right.

By Nicolas Carteron
Medium.com

Dec 28, 2020 - What would you tell me if I asked you what movie has had the most influence on the 21st century so far? And I’m talking real, tangible influence. One we experience every day. The film I’m talking about came out in 1999. It tells the story of a man fatigued by the meaninglessness of the world, who finds solace in camaraderie and do-it-yourself cosmetics. I’m talking about Fight Club, of course.

As of this article’s writing, Fight Club ranks 11th on IMDB all-time favorite movies. When it was released, critics were highly divided, and the film failed to meet its public. Since then, it has gained cult status, mostly with young white males searching for a purpose.

To me, the movie always felt like fascist pseudo-intellectualism wrapped in useless violence. Roger Ebert best captured its vanity when he wrote that Fight Club is “a thrill ride masquerading as philosophy” and one of “the most frankly and cheerfully fascist big-star movie[s].” The film’s advocates claim it is a critique of fascism, consumerism, and toxic masculinity. They say that the narrator killing Tyler is proof of its ironic intent. It’s their way of saying “it was just a prank.” I whole-heartedly disagree.

Fight Club isn’t a critique. It is an unrelenting apology. The narrator killing Tyler does not absolve him from what he has done. It’s also not proof that he has learnt anything or become a better person. Where some see redemption in the murder-suicide, I see acceptance. The narrator doesn’t need an alter ego anymore. He has internalized what he first projected on Tyler. The final scene, in which he stares emotionlessly as his terrorist plot unfolds, is further proof that he has become Tyler.

This debate would be of little consequence if it were limited to discussing a movie's artistic and philosophical merits. However, the issue is that Fight Club and the “philosophy” it supports have reached far beyond the film critics’ salons. The film played on a generational malaise and revitalized many toxic and dangerous movements that ultimately gave rise to the alt-right and got Donald Trump elected.

For those old enough to remember, the 90s were a lost decade defined by a weird feeling that we had reached “the end of history,” what sociologists call historical underdosing. The 20th century had ended in December 1991 with the dissolution of the USSR. The 21st century only started on Tuesday, September 11, 2001. That left ten years hanging between two centuries, lost between two millennia, adrift in time.

French philosopher André Compte Sponville, in a 2004 essay, argued that the fall of the communist Eastern bloc left the capitalist West without a clear sense of self. Since WWII, we in the “first world” had defined ourselves in opposition to the second and third worlds. Our national epistemologies and metaphysics were built on contrast and comparison. When the great other disappeared, we couldn’t explain ourselves anymore.

Movies from the 90s encapsulate this feeling of despair, of abandonment, of purposelessness. 1999 alone gave us The Matrix, Office Space, Fight Club, American Beauty, and Eyes Wide Shut. All these films’ protagonists are white men who feel like their lives (personal, professional, sexual) are at a dead-end and try to create meaning from the world's absurd through rebellion, violence, and sex.

When the 21st century eventually started, it did so in violence and chaos. We were promised flying cars and a better, peaceful world. All we got were crashing planes, fear, and the rise of authoritarianism. As a society, we need a great other to make us feel like we are the good guys, and we found it pretty easily. Islamists became the new communists. The great divide moved from socio-economic policies to a more fundamental good vs bad dichotomy, us vs “the axis of evil.” Dick Cheney defined the war on terrorism as an “existential conflict.”

The malaise of the 90s became the existential dread of the 00s. With masculinity and traditional Western values under attack, the worst intellectual movements re-emerged in such fertile soil, boosted by new global communication tools: the internet and, soon enough, social networks. It is no surprise that all these movements would find Fight Club the perfect expression of their core tenets. It is no surprise that the people who adhere to these movements would adore this movie and praise it like gospel.

Fight Club glorifies masculinity, nihilism, atheism, and fascism. It exalts the white young male who finds meaning in enforcing their virility, treating women like prey to be hunted, rejecting social norms, refusing traditional values, and bending to the “alpha.”

It’s fascinating to see how Fight Club has become a philosophical reference and, to some extent, an idealized version of life, to men’s rights activists, pick-up artists, incels, new atheists, militia groups like the Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights or the Proud Boys, Steve Bannon and Breitbart, and misogynists like Jordan Peterson.

All these groups and people live in a world where white men are oppressed by women who deny them the sex they are owed, forcing them into an involuntary celibate;

  • by other man known as “chads” who steal said women from the “good guys” that they supposedly are;

  • by the LGBTQ+ community, social justice warriors, and what they call the “woke ideology,” who all conspire to reduce men’s rights to increase their own;

  • by foreigners, of course, in what they call the great replacement.

And, of course, all these groups have coalesced into what is now known as the alt-right. Pick-up artists, new atheists, sceptics, men’s rights activists now form the core of this new far-right, fascist ideology whose leader is Donald Trump and whose Bible is Fight Club.

In many ways, Trump personifies all of what these men revere in Tyler Durden. Trump is unabashedly misogynistic; he proudly embraces white supremacist views; he is utterly racist; he shows no respect for traditional values or protocol; he is a homophobe who praises toxic masculinity. He is openly what they secretly hope to be.

Fight Club helped give birth to a new breed of fascism in America; it crystallised the dread of young white men and gave them a roadmap to finding meaning in self-loathing and in the hatred of others. It gave us the alt-right and Donald Trump.

Fight Club probably is the most destructive film ever made.
'Talkin' Socialism,' from the www.enlightenradio.org, Harpers Ferry, WV.
Friday Mornings, 9am Eastern
Moderator: John Case. Regulars: James Boyd, Scott Marshal, Patience Wait,
Mikey, Carl Davidson, Tina Shannon, Randy Shannon and more. Click picture to view,
60 minutes, give or take...
After the DC attempted coup, riots or whatever to call them.

We discuss the matter after a brief video with Bill Fletcher, Jr. ...and what we might do about it.
The Insurrection Is Happening At State Capitols, Too
Across the country, protesters have rallied outside, as well as inside, state capitol buildings over Trump’s false claims of voter fraud.

Need for left and progressive engagement in statehouse campaigns and battles

Arizona statehouse under siege.

By Fabiola Cineas
Vox.com

Jan 6, 2021 - A mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the US Capitol building Wednesday afternoon, abruptly halting a session of Congress that was supposed to certify Presidentelect Joe Biden’s win.

Just hours after Trump encouraged the crowd at a rally to “take our country back” and his lawyer Rudy Guiliani suggested “trial by combat,” hundreds of people clad in Trump gear, some carrying Confederate flags, climbed the steps of the building, breached barricades, broke windows, and entered the halls of the Capitol — an insurrection that threatened the lives of lawmakers inside.

Two hours later, Trump posted a video to Twitter stating that while the election was stolen, “you have to go home now. We have to have peace. We have to have law and order. We have to respect our people in law and order.”

But it was too late. Moments before Trump’s statement, one person was shot and later died, according to DC Emergency Medical Services, with at least five others being transported to the hospital. And uprisings had already spread to other parts of the country.

Capitols across the country also saw rallies and violence
In conjunction with the Senate certification vote, protests were planned in cities across the country on Wednesday, in which organizers planned to “stop the steal” and contest the fact that Joe Biden won the presidential election. Though many protests remained peaceful, some turned odd, and others violent.

Arizona

Pro-Trump rioters in Arizona gathered by the hundreds to demonstrate anger and deny the election results. They could be seen in videos banging on the locked doors of the state capitol building in Phoenix. The group struck on the window until the glass fractured.

Another group brought a guillotine to the gathering, which they explained in a letter obtained by the Arizona Republic. The letter contained misinformation about the election outcome and voter fraud and expressed their feelings toward a potential war:

“You may ask why we are here, why do we have a guillotine with us? The answer is simple,” the document read. “For six weeks Americans have written emails, gathered peacefully, made phone calls and begged their elected officials to listen to their concerns. We have been ignored, ridiculed, scorned, dismissed, lied to, laughed at and essentially told, No Ones Cares.”

“Let it be known, if the Constitution, our way of life, and the Freedoms that we hold so dear are threatened by internal or external enemies, we will rise to the challenge and defend this great nation by all means necessary. While we pray for Peace, but we do not fear war.”

California

In Sacramento, Trump supporters, including rightwing militia group the Three Percenters and the farright streetfighting group the Proud Boys, confronted counterprotesters. Groups rallied around the state capitol giving speeches that denied the results of the presidential election and cursed Gov. Gavin Newsom’s coronavirus rules. The Sacramento police announced on Twitter that they arrested individuals carrying pepper spray. ...Read More


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Video: 'We Did Very Well In Vote By Mail ... Early Vote':
Stacey Abrams On Georgia Runoffs | ABC News ...8 minutes
Harry Targ's 'Diary of a Heartland Radical'
Qiao Collective on the 'America First' Pandemic Response: Parasitic Finance as Lenin’s End-Stage of Imperialism. By Zi Qui.

Editor’s Note: Zi Qiu (紫虬) is a Chinese Marxist blogger and commentator whose work can be found across several Chinese platforms and publications, including Weibo, Utopia, and Chawang. 

This essay was written and published on April 30th, before the horrific murder of George Floyd on May 25, but well after the state of emergency declared by the State of California on March 4th in response to COVID-19, generally signaling the escalation of the pandemic in the United States. Long lines for food drives, anti-mask protests, and looming unemployment and financial insecurity had long become fixtures in the United States’ landscape. Rising public frustration and dire economic straits created a tense national atmosphere on the edge of upheaval.

In this context, this essay may even seem prescient—describing the United States that increasingly alienates both its own denizens and people abroad. Yet the structure and organization of the United States’ hegemony is but a slight step away from what Lenin observed long ago: imperialism as the final stage of capitalism, defined by monopolies, the financial oligarchy, the export of capital, the formation of international monopolist capitalist associations, and the completion of global territorial division. 

Combining the deft application of Lenin’s theory onto modern U.S. imperialism, Zi Qiu shows not only that Lenin’s thought remains ever relevant in a post-Soviet, U.S. unilateralist world, but also that the widening contradictions facing the people of the United States are quickly coming to a head. 

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Tune of the Week: John Prine on Austin City Limits:
'Jesus: The Missing Years' 

Book Review: A Lucid Exploration Of A Little Known
Aspect Of The History Of Slavery In The U.S.

South To Freedom: 
Runaway Slaves To Mexico And
The Road To The Civil War
By Alice L. Baumgartner 
Basic Books, 2020

By Kirkus Reviews

This is a very capable study of the escaped slaves who fled from the U.S. to the Republic of Mexico before the Civil War.

Mexican law both “abolished slavery and freed all slaves who set foot on its soil,” making it an attractive if not widely used place of refuge. This proved a threat to bordering and nearby slave states, especially Texas and Louisiana.

The former, as history professor Baumgartner writes at length, broke away from Mexico so that newcomers from the South could keep their slaves. While runaways to Mexico enjoyed freedom in the legal sense, notes the author, they had limited choices: They could enlist in the military to defend “a series of outposts that the Mexican government established to defend its northeastern frontier against foreign invaders and ‘barbarous’ Indians,” or they could become day laborers and indentured servants, which “sometimes amounted to slavery in all but name.”

By Baumgartner’s estimate, only some 3,000 to 5,000 enslaved people crossed the Mexican border, joining a small remnant population of Blacks, whose ancestors had been brought to Mexico as slaves in the 16th and 17th centuries, before the practice was formally outlawed.

While some Mexicans, adhering to political ideals of liberty and property, resisted emancipation, it was finally made law in 1837, just after Texas’ independence. So threatening was this liberty that, Baumgartner writes, it provided the rationale for the U.S. annexation of Texas in 1845, which led to war with Mexico.

Similarly, she attributes the earlier conquest of Spanish Florida to the fear that slaves would flee there as well. Baumgartner focuses on these big-picture developments while also telling the stories of some of those who found freedom in Mexico—e.g., a runaway who returned to Texas not because, as a newspaper put it, he “has a poor opinion of the country and laws,” but instead to guide his enslaved brothers across the border.

A lucid exploration of a little-known aspect of the history of slavery in the U.S.

TV Review: 'Between the World and Me'
Oprah Winfrey, Angela Bassett and Mahershala Ali star in Kamilah Forbes' page-to-stage-to-HBO adaptation of Ta-Nehisi Coates' bestseller about Black struggle--with an appearance by Angela Davis...Distills the book’s lyrical rage and oracular pithiness. 


By Inkoo Kang
Hollywood Reporter

“The Talk” — the cautionary conversation that many Black parents have with their children about the realities of racism and police brutality in America — was thrust into the mainstream literary spotlight in 2015 with the publication of Ta-Nehesi Coates’ Between the World and Me, the best-selling and National Book Award-winning epistle addressed to the author’s 15-year-old son. Part memoir, part history lesson, part life advice and part eulogy, the slim but essential volume debuted a year after the police killings of Eric Garner, Michael Brown and Tamir Rice, making Coates’ extended requiem for a Howard University acquaintance — Prince Jones, also murdered by law enforcement — that much more devastating.

Another Howard classmate, Kamilah Forbes, adapted and directed Between the World and Me for the stage in 2018, distilling the book’s lyrical rage and oracular pithiness. Forbes now brings a version of that Apollo Theater production to HBO, along with many members of the original cast, including Angela Bassett, Joe Morton, Pauletta Washington, Michelle Wilson and Susan Kelechi Watson (who executive produces alongside Coates, Forbes and Roger Ross Williams). Premiering near the end of a year that saw George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks and Breonna Taylor (whose unseen mother is interviewed by Coates here) slain by police, the film serves as a necessary reminder that the “normal” state of affairs that some voters hope to return to under a Biden presidency is still a grim one for far too many Americans.

Shot in August, with COVID production restraints, the TV adaptation is a worthy screen translation of Coates’ monumental work, with archival footage, original animation and hip-hop tracks lending historical and emotional texture to the author’s words. (Angela Davis is a surprise participant, and having the legendary activist and scholar conjure the long history of Black protest alongside photos of her from the 1970s is a brief but thoroughly moving tribute.) Closer to a visual essay than a documentary, with actors in quarantine reciting Coates’ words while often looking straight into the camera, the 79-minute film further enlivens source material that already feels written in blood.

It’s in those recitations that the HBO special occasionally falters. No series made during the pandemic has boasted consistently great acting, and that’s the case here, too. But the sprawling cast — which also includes Mahershala Ali, Phylicia Rashad, Janet Mock, Wendell Pierce, Mj Rodriguez, Yara Shahidi, Jharrel Jerome and Courtney B. Vance, as well as many lesser-known performers — makes sure that the occasional mannered monologue is soon followed by an interpretation that renders Coates’ words something resembling spoken poetry.

Forbes expands Coates’ book from a letter by a father to his son to a more universally Black address — a decision that feels right on paper, but slightly less so in execution. I missed the autobiographical details that led the author to his particular intellectual journey — a sojourn started on the hard-bitten streets of Baltimore, in fear-based fiefdoms that demand a survivalist’s toughness that Coates, as a parent, hopes his child won’t ever have to muster. Part of the rare power of Coates’ remembrances, too, is the contrast between the constrained world he grew up in and the panoramic one his son will hopefully embrace. That gap between the father and son’s disparate vantage points coming of age is harder to grasp when we’re ensconced in the homes of wealthy actors and the campus of an aspirational Howard, represented here by a glimpse of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

Nor can a few changes of the word “son” to “daughter” encompass the enormous intersectional differences between Black men and Black women, or those between cis, straight Black people and their queer counterparts. But these are ultimately quibbles about some incidental dissonant chords amid a complicated symphony of righteous anger, bone-deep agony, searching beauty and the tenderest of love.

The dedication that ends the film — to Jones and to Chadwick Boseman, another Howard alum who appears giving a graduation speech — represents the struggle that Coates tells his child is his heavy legacy and his grave responsibility. To understand America, it’s crucial to know how the past of this country isn’t yet past. But it’s just as urgent to understand, Coates argues, what Black people have created, often from nothing. As he himself recites toward the film’s end, “The warmth of our particular world is beautiful, no matter how brief and breakable. We have made something down here. They made us into a race. We made ourselves into a people.” ...Read More
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