Conservatives Are Asking You To Disbelieve Your Own Eyes

“The numbskulls who stormed the Capitol, some of whom are facing modest prison sentences for their role in the clownish putsch, didn’t show up by happenstance. “All of them—all of them were telling us, ‘Trump sent us,'” according to recent testimony at a U.S. House of Representatives hearing by a U.S. Capitol police officer who fought back the insurgents.

Not every participant in the day’s sordid events engaged in violence or vandalism, of course, and whatever punishments the courts mete out should fit the particular crime. But this was no tourist visit gone awry. Not every person who joined in left-wing attacks in Portland committed crimes, either, but I don’t suppose Trump supporters would cut those folks slack.

The Trumpsters’ silliest argument is that Antifa, the fascistic “anti-fascists” who turned portions of U.S. cities into rubble, were behind the Capitol event. Conservatives touted that narrative immediately after January 6. Apparently, that loose-knit movement runs so meticulously that it recruited thousands of volunteers who acted exactly like Trump supporters.

Why believe your own eyes? Sure, a few lefties might have infiltrated the pro-Trump mob. That doesn’t make it an Antifa riot. The Portland scene wasn’t a right-wing event because a few right-wing infiltrators may have joined in the action. I’ve attended many protests and guarantee that they attract all sorts of nut jobs. It’s not hard for anyone to gain admission.

Despite GOP efforts to rewrite history, my eyes confirm the conclusion drawn by conservative writer David Frum: “The January 6 attack was incited by the head of the American government, the man who had sworn to protect and defend that government. It was the thing most feared by the authors of the U.S. Constitution: a betrayal of the highest office by the holder of that office.”

Here’s the problem. It portends dangers for the future if so many conservatives refuse to cop to the obvious truths of that day. If we can’t all agree on basic, obvious facts about an event that unfolded before our eyes, then we’re headed toward a well-trod path of internecine struggles where we just pick a side and fight to the bitter end.”

“My problem is with the political right’s movement toward, well, authoritarianism, exemplified by its refusal to embrace facts that don’t conform to their alternative reality—and their unwavering support for a man rather than a set of ideas. It’s ironic that the man they’ve chosen to follow seems to embody moral characteristics they’ve long railed against, but go figure.

Even GOP leaders who know better and occasionally speak out against Trump’s disinformation—House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R–Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R–Ky.)—always end up toeing the party line. They dare not defy Trump or his base voters.”

Georgia Republicans didn’t waste any time in using their new voter suppression law

“In March, Georgia Republicans passed SB 202, a sweeping new election law that erects obstacles between Georgia voters and their right to cast a ballot. While some are relatively minor or even popular, the most ominous provisions of this new law allow the state election board, which is dominated by Republicans, to seize control of county election boards. Those boards can disqualify voters, move polling precincts, and potentially even refuse to certify an election count.”

“letters from Republican lawmakers are the first step in the legal process Republicans may use to take over elections in Fulton County, the most populous county in the state, which encompasses most of Atlanta. In 2020, nearly 73 percent of Fulton County voters cast a ballot for President Joe Biden. Biden won the county by nearly a quarter-million votes, enough to push him ahead of former President Donald Trump in a state decided by 11,779 votes overall.

Both letters ask the state elections board to begin a “performance review” of the local officials who oversee elections in Fulton County. The senators claim that such a review is justified because “nearly 200 ballots were scanned twice last fall” during the initial vote count in Fulton — a claim that was previously featured on Tucker Carlson’s show.

The reality is much more nuanced, and it suggests that the state’s existing systems worked exactly as they were supposed to work. Although nearly 200 ballots were double-counted during the first count of Fulton County’s ballots, Georgia conducted both a machine recount and a hand recount of all its ballots, given how close the statewide result was. And there’s no evidence that any ballots were counted twice in the final tallies that showed Biden ahead of Trump.

It appears likely that a poll worker in Fulton County made a minor clerical error, and this error was corrected in the subsequent recounts.

Nevertheless, it is probably inevitable that the GOP-controlled state elections board will open an investigation into Fulton County. And once this investigation concludes, the state board can use it as a pretext to remove Fulton County’s local elections board and replace it with a temporary superintendent who can undermine voting within that county.”

“The outcome of Georgia’s 2022 statewide elections, in other words, may not be determined by the state’s voters. It could hinge on a sham investigation into Fulton County’s election administration — and by a partisan board’s subsequent decision to place a partisan official in charge of counting most of the votes in Atlanta.”

Will China’s national security law break Hong Kong as a business hub?

“The Biden administration in July issued a warning to US companies: Doing business in Hong Kong is increasingly risky. The advisory, released jointly by the departments of State, Treasury, Commerce, and Homeland Security, was basically a giant red flag cautioning companies and investors against the complications that are emerging under China’s national security law.

China imposed the sweeping legislation a little more than a year ago. It has since stifled Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement and undermined its autonomy, rule of law, and free speech traditions.

This tenuous political climate has shaken Hong Kong, but it has not yet upended its status as a global financial capital. The United States’s advisory is recognition that this might change as China continues its crackdown in the territory. International businesses — and their employees — could soon find themselves entangled in national security law enforcement.”

“China, for its part, is banking that Hong Kong’s infrastructure and economic climate will still make it a destination for foreign businesses in Asia despite the crackdown. After all, trade wars, tense Washington-Beijing relations, Beijing’s atrocious human rights record, and US sanctions have yet to stop most US firms from doing business in mainland China. And that may keep Hong Kong’s economic might intact while doing little to stop its democracy from crumbling.”

Belarus opposition confident of change despite year of ‘hell’ unleashed by Lukashenko

“A year after his tainted electoral victory, Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko continues to use violence and intimidation against his opponents at home and abroad to cling to power.

But the opposition isn’t giving up hope that he can be pushed out.”

“Lukashenko is showing no sign of loosening his grip.

All prominent opposition leaders have either been arrested or forced out of the country. Protesters have faced mass arrests. The regime is now rooting out the few remaining independent media operations and NGOs — including education institutions, human rights advocates and the local unit of the PEN-center headed by Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Aleksievich, who lives in exile in Germany.”

The staggering implications of the Supreme Court’s Texas anti-abortion ruling

“the Supreme Court allowed a Texas law that effectively bans all abortions after six weeks of pregnancy to take effect.

Twenty-four hours later, the Court released a brief, one-paragraph order explaining why it did so — though it is a stretch to describe the Court’s short and thinly reasoned order as an “explanation”. The vote in Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson was 5-4, with conservative Chief Justice John Roberts crossing over to vote with the three liberal justices.

The implications of this order are breathtaking. The Texas law violates the precedent established in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), which protects “the right of the woman to choose to have an abortion before viability and to obtain it without undue interference from the state.” The sixth week of gestation is so early in a pregnancy that many people aren’t even aware they are pregnant.

At least 85 percent of abortions in Texas take place after the sixth week of pregnancy, according to the abortion providers who sued to block Texas’s law, SB 8. All of those abortions are now illegal in the state.

But the implications of the Court’s decision in Whole Woman’s Health stretch further.

SB 8 relies on a highly unusual enforcement mechanism. No state officer is permitted to enforce the statute. Instead, the law permits “any person, other than an officer or employee of a state or local governmental entity in this state” to file a lawsuit against an abortion provider or anyone who “aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion.” A plaintiff who prevails in such a lawsuit is entitled to bounty of at least $10,000, paid by the person they sued.

As Justice Sonia Sotomayor explains in one of four opinions filed by the dissenting justices, Texas lawmakers “fashioned this scheme because federal constitutional challenges to state laws ordinarily are brought against state officers who are in charge of enforcing the law.” So if no state officer can enforce the law, it is unclear whether anyone can be sued to block it.

The Supreme Court’s order, joined by the five most conservative justices, effectively blesses this method of evading judicial review.

But if Texas can avoid a court order blocking its anti-abortion law by delegating enforcement of the law to private bounty hunters, so can any other state. Indeed, nothing in the Court’s order prevents another state from passing a law banning all abortions — provided that the law is enforced using SB 8-style private lawsuits.”

“Allowing a law to stand that violates the Supreme Court’s 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision means that the constitutional right to an abortion is effectively dead. States now have the power to ban abortion for the first time since the Roe v. Wade ruling was handed down in 1973.

While it is theoretically possible that the Court could reverse course in subsequent litigation and strike down SB 8, the sort of justices who would allow such a law to take effect are exceedingly unlikely to do so. And the Court is already planning to hear a case in its next term, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which it can use to overrule Roe explicitly.”

“The Court has now signaled that it will permit states to enact laws that were intentionally drafted to frustrate judicial review, at least if a majority of the Court agrees with what that law is trying to accomplish. And it handed down one of the most monumental decisions of our era — a decision effectively overturning Roe v. Wade — in a shadow docket order that offers virtually no reasoning.”

“With their decision in Whole Woman’s Health, the justices have unleashed a monster. If taken seriously, that decision would allow any state to subject any person or institution to an overwhelming wave of lawsuits that they cannot possibly defend against. SB 8 is a direct attack on the rule of law and the principle that everyone should have their day in court before they are punished by the state.

It’s an attack on the 14th Amendment, which provides that no state may “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”

But, of course, if a state were to target gun owners, or Alito, or anyone else the Supreme Court’s most conservative justices approve of, the Court would almost certainly step in to protect a conservative litigant. Just last month, in Chrysafis v. Marks, the Supreme Court blocked part of New York state’s eviction moratorium because it “denies the landlord a hearing” before that landlord is required to house an unwanted tenant.

The Supreme Court is quite protective of due process — when the right litigant seeks the Court’s protection. One of the most disturbing things about Whole Woman’s Health is that it suggests the Court has abandoned its most fundamental principle: equal justice under law.”

Texas’s radical anti-abortion law, explained

“In May, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed a state law that effectively bans abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy — sooner than many people learn they are pregnant. This law violates the ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), which protects “the right of the woman to choose to have an abortion before viability and to obtain it without undue interference from the state.”

Nevertheless, the law took effect on Wednesday after a Supreme Court dominated by Republican appointees refused to grant a group of litigants’ emergency request and block it. Twenty-four hours later, the Court handed down a very brief order formally holding that the law may take effect.

The Court’s non-action on the Texas law almost certainly foreshadows a more explicit attack on abortion rights in a future case, and the Court is already scheduled to decide another abortion case next year.”

“SB 8 is unlike most other laws in that it was written to prevent courts from blocking it before it takes effect.

The anti-abortion law, which is before the Supreme Court in a case called Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson, presents a maze of procedural complexities that are rarely seen in even the most complicated litigation. The law appears to have been drafted to intentionally frustrate lawsuits challenging its constitutionality. And Texas, with an assist from a right-wing appellate court, has thus far manipulated the litigation process to prevent any judge from considering whether SB 8 is lawful.

The stakes in this case are astronomical. Six weeks into a pregnancy is often very soon after a pregnant person misses their first menstrual period. So they may not even be aware that they are pregnant until it is too late. According to the abortion providers who are suing to block SB 8, at least 85 percent of abortions in Texas take place after the sixth week of pregnancy. Those abortions are now illegal under SB 8.

And the stakes in Whole Woman’s Health stretch far beyond abortion. SB 8 was drafted to frustrate judicial review before the law took effect. Now that the Supreme Court appears to have embraced this tactic, other states could copy it, potentially allowing states to enact all kinds of unconstitutional practices that can’t be challenged until after an unconstitutional law takes effect.”

“The way it’s written, a Texan who objects to SB 8 may have no one they can sue to stop it from taking effect.

For one, abortion rights plaintiffs can’t sue their state directly. The ordinary rule is that when someone sues a state in order to block a state law, they cannot sue the state directly. States benefit from a doctrine known as “sovereign immunity,” which typically prevents lawsuits against the state itself.

But they also can’t really follow the same path that most citizens who want to stop laws do. That path relies on Ex parte Young (1908), a decision in which the Supreme Court established that someone raising a constitutional challenge to a state law may sue the state officer charged with enforcing that law — and obtain a court order preventing that officer from enforcing it. So, for example, if Texas passed a law requiring the state medical board to strip all abortion providers of their medical licenses, a plaintiff could sue the medical board. If a state passed a law requiring state police to blockade abortion clinics, a plaintiff might sue the chief of the state’s police force.

Part of what makes SB 8 such a bizarre law is that it does not permit any state official to enforce it. Rather, the statute provides that it “shall be enforced exclusively through . . . private civil actions.”

Under the law, “any person, other than an officer or employee of a state or local governmental entity in this state,” may bring a private lawsuit against anyone who performs an abortion after the sixth week of pregnancy, or against anyone who “knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion.” Plaintiffs who prevail in such suits shall receive at least $10,000 from the defendant.

SB 8, in other words, attempts to make an end run around Young by preventing state officials from directly enforcing the law. Again, Young established that a plaintiff may sue a state official charged with enforcing a state law in order to block enforcement of that law. But if no state official is charged with enforcing the law, there’s no one to sue in order to block the law.”

“Now that the law has taken effect, abortion providers (plus anyone who “aids or abets” an abortion, a vague term that is not defined in the statute) will undoubtedly be bombarded with lawsuits seeking the $10,000 bounty authorized by the new state law. These defendants will then be able to argue in court that they should not be required to pay this bounty because it is unconstitutional.

But they will do so under the threat of having to pay such a bounty to anyone who brings a lawsuit against them. Even if abortion providers prevail in all of these suits, moreover, they will still have to pay for lawyers to defend themselves in court. And the suits seeking a bounty under SB 8 will likely be numerous and endless, because literally “any person” who is not a Texas state officer can file such a suit.

If SB 8 remains in effect, any abortion providers who do remain operational are likely to be crushed by a wave of lawsuits that they cannot afford to litigate.”

Why The Two-Party System Is Effing Up U.S. Democracy

“in the U.S., one party has become a major illiberal outlier: The Republican Party. Scholars at the V-Dem Institute at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden have been monitoring and evaluating political parties around the world. And one big area of study for them is liberalism and illiberalism, or a party’s commitment (or lack thereof) to democratic norms prior to elections. And as the chart below shows, of conservative, right-leaning parties across the globe, the Republican Party has more in common with the dangerously authoritarian parties in Hungary and Turkey than it does with conservative parties in the U.K. or Germany.”

“People in countries with majoritarian(ish) democracies, or two very dominant parties dominating its politics like in the U.S. — think Canada, Britain, Australia — have displayed more unfavorable feelings toward the political opposition.”

“another team of scholars, Noam Gidron, James Adams and Will Horne, shows that citizens in majoritarian democracies with less proportional representation dislike both their own parties and opposing parties more than citizens in multiparty democracies with more proportional representation.1”

“This pattern may have something to do with the shifting politics of coalition formation in proportional democracies, where few political enemies are ever permanent (e.g., the unlikely new governing coalition in Israel). This also echoes something social psychologists have found in running experiments on group behavior: Breaking people into three groups instead of two leads to less animosity. Something, in other words, appears to be unique about the binary condition, or in this case, the two-party system, that triggers the kind of good-vs-evil, dark-vs-light, us-against-them thinking that is particularly pronounced in the U.S.”

The political crisis in Tunisia, explained by an expert

“Over the weekend, President Kais Saied fired the country’s prime minister and suspended Parliament in what his political opponents have called a coup. But he says the move was justified after thousands of Tunisians took to the streets in recent days to protest the government’s handling of the pandemic, which has deepened the country’s economic woes.

Supporters of the president cheered his ousting of Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and other government ministers, but those celebrations turned to clashes when those who opposed Saied’s moves also took to the streets to protest.

“One of the big question marks is: Is this a coup?” said Sarah Yerkes, a former State Department and Pentagon official and now a senior fellow in Carnegie’s Middle East Program who focuses on Tunisia. That’s a question a lot of people are asking right now, and it doesn’t actually have a straightforward answer, in part because democracy in Tunisia is still very new.”

“The president has, I would say, extralegally, or outside of normal legal channels, fired the prime minister. He is allowed to do that, although he has to consult with Parliament — but he also suspended Parliament. And so that is certainly not something he’s allowed to do.

He has fired other ministers, too. So he declared himself kind of the chief executive. He normally functions as the head of state, and then the prime minister is the head of government. The president, in normal times, just has control over foreign affairs, defense, and national security. The prime minister oversees everything else. But now the president is overseeing everything.”

“When the president made the declaration, he said he was following Tunisia’s Constitution. There is this article, Article 80, that allows the president to take on emergency powers. But I’ve been following various Tunisian legal experts on social media and through other conversations, and it seems that Article 80 does not really apply to how the president carried things out.”

Call it authoritarianism

“Blocking an inquiry into the January 6 attack on the Capitol, embracing Trump’s “Big Lie” that the election was stolen, making it easier for partisans to tamper with the process of counting votes: These are not the actions of a party committed to the basic idea of open, representative government.

It’s common to call this GOP behavior “anti-democratic,” but the description can only go so far. It tells us what they’re moving America away from, but not where they want to take it. The term “minority rule” is closer, but euphemistic; it puts the Republican actions in the same category as a Supreme Court ruling, countermajoritarian moves inside a democratic framework rather than something fundamentally opposed to it.

It’s worth being clear about this: The GOP has become an authoritarian party pushing an authoritarian policy agenda.”

“When people think of authoritarian governments, they typically think of police states and 20th-century totalitarianism. But “authoritarianism” is actually a broad term, encompassing very different governments united mostly by the fact that they do not transfer power through free and fair elections.”

“competitive authoritarian systems survive in part by convincing citizens that they are living in a democracy. That’s how they maintain their legitimacy and prevent popular uprisings. As such, they do not conduct the kind of obvious sham elections held in places like Bashar al-Assad’s Syria (he won the 2021 contest with 95 percent of the “vote”).

In competitive authoritarianism, the opposition does have some ability to win a bit of power through, well, competition — even if the scope of their possible victories are limited.

It’s a tricky balance for the regime to pull off: rigging elections enough to maintain power indefinitely while still permitting enough democracy that citizens don’t rise up in outrage. Many competitive authoritarian regimes have collapsed under the stress, either transitioning to democracy (like Taiwan) or forcefully repressing the opposition and becoming a more traditional autocracy (like Belarus).”

“Happily, the United States still passes the most basic test of whether a system is democratic: whether the public can vote out its leaders. But it is hard to deny that the Republican Party has begun chipping away at that baseline principle, using the flaws in our political system to entrench their power.”