Record Low Turnout in Iran as Voters Lose Faith in Elections

“Iranians went to the polls…—or didn’t—for the first time since a women-led uprising against religious rule rocked the nation. Authorities reported a record-low turnout of 27 percent, even after they extended voting for an additional two hours, amidst widespread disillusionment and calls for an election boycott.
The country had suffered months of unrest following the death of Mahsa Amini, who was arrested for not complying with the country’s mandatory hijab rule in September 2022. Although the streets have calmed down, it was the most significant challenge to the Islamic Republic yet.”

“Since the 1979 revolution, Iran has had a mix of democratic and theocratic institutions. Election turnout has rarely fallen below 50 percent and has sometimes reached as high as 70 percent. Iranian “leaders crave constantly high turnout as evidence of the people’s love of the revolution, but…loathe the results that high turnout always brings,” in the words of political scientist Shervin Malekzadeh.

Over the past few years, the government has dropped the pretense of caring. During protests in November 2019, authorities launched a crackdown that killed hundreds of people, then banned thousands of candidates from the February 2020 parliamentary election. A record low 42 percent of voters turned out that year, a result that the Iranian government blamed on coronavirus and “negative propaganda.”

Even Hassan Rouhani, who was President of Iran during the November 2019 crackdown, has been banned from running for office. He joins a long list of elected Iranian leaders who have outlived their usefulness to the system, including former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was in office during the 2009 protest wave and crackdown.

Ahmadinejad and Rouhani have both refashioned themselves as dissidents.”

Why Trump is a Threat to Democracy

Dismissal of James Comey Wikipedia. The Comey firing, as retold by the Mueller report Eric Tucker. 2019 4 23. AP News. Giuliani: Trump fired Comey because former FBI director wouldn’t say he wasn’t a target in investigation Politico Staff. 2018

Docs reveal new details of Trump lawyer’s fringe push to overturn 2020 election

“A trove of documents released this week reveal extraordinary new details about the role of Kenneth Chesebro — a once-obscure conservative attorney — in driving the strategy to keep Donald Trump in power despite his defeat in the 2020 election.
Communications between Chesebro and a top Trump campaign lawyer in Wisconsin, Jim Troupis, show that Chesebro argued just days after the Nov. 3, 2020 election that creating a “cloud of confusion” by submitting dueling slates of electors would be enough to keep Joe Biden from becoming president.”

Accused of Dictatorial Ambitions, Trump Doubles Down on Authoritarianism

“To some extent, Trump’s argument that “A PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES MUST HAVE FULL IMMUNITY,” as he put it in an all-caps Truth Social post last week, mirrors the position his lawyers have taken in seeking dismissal of federal charges stemming from his attempts to remain in office after losing reelection in 2020. Although a former president can be prosecuted for “purely private conduct,” they say, he can be prosecuted for “official acts” only if they resulted in impeachment by the House and conviction by the Senate.

As one judge noted when a skeptical D.C. Circuit panel probed the implications of that position earlier this month, it could literally give presidents a license to kill by ordering the assassination of their political opponents. Trump’s understanding of presidential immunity is, if anything, even broader.

“ALL PRESIDENTS MUST HAVE COMPLETE & TOTAL PRESIDENTIAL IMMUNITY,” Trump says, even when their actions “CROSS THE LINE” between legitimate exercises of presidential power and criminality. Otherwise, he warns, presidential “AUTHORITY & DECISIVENESS” will be “STRIPPED & GONE FOREVER.””

Why the World Is Betting Against American Democracy

“When I asked the European ambassador to talk to me about America’s deepening partisan divide, I expected a polite brushoff at best. Foreign diplomats are usually loath to discuss domestic U.S. politics.
Instead, the ambassador unloaded for an hour, warning that America’s poisonous politics are hurting its security, its economy, its friends and its standing as a pillar of democracy and global stability.

The U.S. is a “fat buffalo trying to take a nap” as hungry wolves approach, the envoy mused. “I can hear those Champagne bottle corks popping in Moscow — like it’s Christmas every fucking day.””

“one former Arab ambassador who was posted in the U.S. during both Republican and Democratic administrations told me American politics have become so unhealthy that he’d turn down a chance to return.

“I don’t know if in the coming years people will be looking at the United States as a model for democracy,” a second Arab diplomat warned.”

What’s the insurrection clause? Here’s what it says.

“Here’s the full text:

“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, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.”

Quite a mouthful, right? Let’s simplify. Here’s a streamlined version of the clause with only the most relevant parts highlighted:

“No person shall … hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, … who, having previously taken an oath, … as an officer of the United States, … to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same …”

The justices are sure to delve into the precise meaning of those pivotal phrases. For example:

Was the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol an “insurrection”? If not, the insurrection clause doesn’t apply.
Even if Jan. 6 was an insurrection, did Trump “engage” in it? If not, he is eligible to hold office again.
When Trump took his oath of office as president, did he take that oath as “officer of the United States”? If not, the disqualification provision does not apply to him.”

How death threats get Republicans to fall in line behind Trump

“In early 2021, Richer was an Arizona Republican official who regularly attended local party events. At the time, he was the newly elected county recorder of Maricopa County. The job was a new level of prominence — he was now the most important election supervisory official in the state’s largest county — but going to Arizona Republican events was routine: the kind of thing that Richer, like any state politician, had done hundreds of times before.
But at one event, the crowd heckled and harassed him. When he tried to leave, they dragged him back in, yanking on his arms and shoulders, to berate him about the allegedly stolen 2020 election. He started to worry: Would his own people, fellow Republican Party members, seriously hurt him?

There was a clear reason for the madness. Many of the Republican faithful had recently decided that Maricopa County had been the epicenter of “the steal,” Joe Biden’s theft of Arizona from Donald Trump — and the entire presidential election with it. This wasn’t true, obviously. Richer tried to tell them it wasn’t true, hoping his long track record in the state Republican party would give him some credibility.

It did not. What happened instead reveals a pattern that is quietly reshaping American politics: Across the board and around the country, data reveals that threats against public officials have risen to unprecedented numbers — to the point where 83 percent of Americans are now concerned about risks of political violence in their country. The threats are coming from across the political spectrum, but the most important ones in this regard emanate from the MAGA faithful.

Trump’s most fanatical followers have created a situation where challenging him carries not only political risks but also personal ones. Elected officials who dare defy the former president face serious threats to their well-being and to that of their families — raising the cost of taking an already difficult stand.”

“It’s been well over two years since Richer attended the kinds of Arizona GOP grassroots events where he was once welcome. Today, the institutional Arizona Republican party is dominated by politicians who have embraced Trump’s lies about the election — people like Kari Lake, Blake Masters, and Mark Finchem. The harassment and threats from the MAGA faithful was one weapon in the extremist takeover’s arsenal, working to push voices of sanity out of key party events — breaking even determined ones like Richer.

In Arizona, the Trumpist threat of violence worked. And it worked for reasons that should worry all of us at the beginning of an election year that could decide the fate of American democracy.”

“In 2016, the Capitol Police recorded fewer than 900 threats against members of Congress. In 2017, that figure more than quadrupled, per data provided by the Capitol Police.

The numbers continued to increase in every year of the Trump presidency, peaking at 9,700 in 2021. In 2022, the first full year of Biden’s term, the numbers went down to a still-high 7,500. The 2023 data has not yet been released, but a spike in threats against legislators during the House Republican speaker fight and Israel-Hamas conflict suggests an increase over the 2022 numbers is plausible.

Members of Congress are taking these threats seriously. In September, three journalists at the Washington Post reviewed FEC filings to assess how much candidates for the House and Senate were spending on security. They found an overall increase of 500 percent between 2020 and 2022.”

Israel’s Supreme Court just overturned Netanyahu’s pre-war power grab

“The ruling, released on New Year’s Day, annulled the single biggest piece of legislation passed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right coalition. The Court’s reasoning fundamentally changes the balance of power in Israel’s democracy — so fundamentally, in fact, that some members of the elected government have vowed not to abide by it. If that happens, Israel will be thrown into a full-blown constitutional crisis.
About a year ago, Netanyahu proposed a sweeping overhaul to Israel’s judiciary — one that would, in effect, put it under his personal thumb. Mass protests succeeded in blocking most of the overhaul. Only one plank — curtailing the power of the courts to overturn government policy — actually became law, an amendment to Israel’s “Basic Laws,” the closest thing the country has to a constitution. This is the law that was just overturned by the Supreme Court.

In doing so, the Court came to two key conclusions. First, that it has the general power to overturn Basic Laws — a power it had never deployed before. Second, that this new Basic Law was threatening enough to Israeli democracy that the court was justified in overruling it.

In peacetime, a ruling this epochal would transform Israeli politics, reorienting everything around the question of the court’s new claim to power and (plausible) claim to be saving Israeli democracy.

But with the country enmeshed in an existential war in Gaza, the domestic reaction to the court’s ruling is far less explosive than it would be otherwise. Whether this lasts — or whether Israel erupts into a domestic political crisis to match its current international peril — is far from clear.”