Despite its brutal tactics, Iran’s regime fails to contain mass protests

“The Iranian regime is struggling to crush a massive wave of nimble and durable protests, unlike any the Islamic Republic has faced in the past. The leaderless movement has grown in strength despite increasingly harsh crackdowns, relying on unprecedented solidarity between ethnic minorities, different religious groups, and men allied with protesting women.
The movement started in September after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, an ethnic Kurd from Saqez in northwest Iran, who was arrested in Tehran by the morality police for allegedly wearing her hijab incorrectly and who later died in police custody. Protests in Saqez quickly spread to Tehran and other cities throughout the country. Now in their third month, the protests show no signs of stopping, despite the shocking violence security forces have deployed against the demonstrators, including savage beatings, mass arrests, and indiscriminate killings of protesters, including children.”

“more than 300 have been killed during the protests. That number includes roughly 50 children under 18, the New York Times’ Farnaz Fassihi reported last week. But casualties and arrests are difficult to track; social media and internet access have been severely curtailed, and foreign reporters can’t access the country. Thus far, five protesters are set to be executed for participating in the uprising.”

Both Left and Right Are Converging on Authoritarianism

“partisan animosity suits the authoritarian elements on the left and right just fine. Their goal is power, and they have little patience for procedural niceties that interfere with its exercise. As history teaches, a base whipped up into fear and fury is ready to accept almost anything to ensure its own survival. Perhaps even the destruction of the institutions and ideals that make America distinctively itself.”

“At a time of polarization, you might expect the right to react by doubling down on support for free markets and private property. Instead, concurrent with democratic socialism’s ascendance, many prominent conservatives have taken a leftward turn of their own.
In June 2019, Tucker Carlson spent five full minutes during his prime-time Fox News show praising a plan from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) to promote “economic patriotism.” The proposal, which called for “aggressive” government action to bolster domestic manufacturing and keep American companies from creating jobs abroad, “sounds like Donald Trump at his best,” Carlson enthused.

President Donald Trump exhibited a high degree of comfort wielding state power for mercantilist ends, from his imposition of tariffs to his use of subsidies and bailouts to support American companies facing competition. Now a rising cadre of nationalist conservatives (a.k.a. “natcons”) are happy to provide the intellectual ammunition for this America First agenda.

In 2019, Republican policy wonk Oren Cass appeared at the inaugural National Conservatism Conference to argue for industrial policy—a robust program of federal interventions meant to resuscitate American manufacturing. He went on to found a think tank, American Compass, that promotes such familiar policies as making corporations give board seats to labor representatives.”

“Economics is the arena in which the left-right convergence is most obviously apparent. But there are other places in which the two movements, though superficially worlds apart, are tracking in the same disturbing direction at a deeper level.”

“This is what feels most broken in our politics. It’s not the ways left and right are further apart than ever; it’s the ways they’re closer together, with powerful elements on each side having jettisoned the longstanding liberal ideal of respecting the rights of even those with whom you strongly disagree.

The two camps, of course, have different substantive moral visions for the society they wish to construct. But each views a broad conception of individual liberty as a barrier to achieving that vision.

Economic liberty, including international trade and private property rights, stands in the way of progressives’ desire for an egalitarian and democratic order in which no one is ever again expected to work for someone else—and in the way of natcons’ desire for a revivified American manufacturing sector in which male breadwinners can support a large family on a single income. Speech protections prevent both sides from controlling the conversation as they wish. Religious freedom is seen as either a cover for rank bigotry or a rationalization for excluding God from the public square. And liberal toleration, with its norms of fair play and civility, is at odds with the reigning conception of politics as total war.”

“Individual liberty, equality under the law, protections against the arbitrary exercise of governmental power—these are unmistakably American values. While influential elements on both the left and the right have turned against them in recent years, most Americans are not on board with total-war politics.

Much has been made of rising affective polarization, and there is some evidence to support the concern. People have become more likely over time to say they would be displeased if they had a son or daughter who married someone from the opposite political party, for example. Yet Americans from both parties are still significantly more likely to say they would not be bothered at all. In fact, a 2020 survey commissioned by The Economist found just 16 percent of Democrats and just 13 percent of Republicans saying they would be “very upset” in that situation. Severe affective polarization remains mostly an elite phenomenon.

In a poll commissioned last year by the group More in Common, three in four respondents agreed that “the differences between Americans are not so big that we cannot come together.” Demonization of the other is a powerful political weapon, and those inclined toward authoritarianism are particularly comfortable using it. But what is sometimes called the “grand liberal bargain”—a social truce in which each side broadly agrees to respect the other’s freedom, even if it doesn’t like what the other side will do with it—is a powerful defense, and one in keeping with the natural ethos of America. It’s not too late to choose it.”

When an election denier becomes an election chief

“Many of the election deniers running for secretary of state this year have spent their time talking about something they can’t do: “decertifying” the 2020 results.

The bigger question — amid concerns about whether they would fairly administer the 2024 presidential election — is exactly what powers they would have if they win in November.

Atop the list of the most disruptive things they could do is refusing to certify accurate election results — a nearly unprecedented step that would set off litigation in state and federal court. That has already played out on a smaller scale this year, when a small county in New Mexico refused to certify election results over unfounded fears about election machines, until a state court ordered them to certify.

But secretaries of states’ roles in elections stretch far beyond approving vote tallies and certifying results. Many of the candidates want to dramatically change the rules for future elections, too.

The Donald Trump-aligned Republican nominees in a number of presidential battleground states have advocated for sweeping changes to election law, with a particular focus on targeting absentee and mail voting in their states — keying off one of Trump’s obsessions.

And even if they cannot push through major changes to state law using allies in the legislatures, they could still complicate and frustrate elections through the regulatory directives that guide the day-to-day execution of election procedures by county officials in their states.”

Trump is pushing us toward the abyss

“The litany of grievances, the sense that Trump has been forever persecuted by the government, the unfounded implication that the FBI was “planting information” at his house — all of it screams victimization, that Trump is the target of a vast and shadowy conspiracy pulling the FBI’s strings.

The fact that a Truth Social user had just been radicalized by such talk — posting violent threats on the site before attempting an armed breach of an FBI building — isn’t deterring Trump at all. He is, as the political scientist Julia Azari puts it, a nationalist who has no concept of a nation; a narcissist who abuses the language of patriotism without any commitment to the underlying idea that he has some responsibility to preserve order and cohesion in the polity. In fact, he does the opposite — sowing division and stoking violent distrust if it helps him.

Perhaps Trump’s talk wouldn’t be so dangerous if the rest of the GOP would work to tamp it down. Yet it’s become excruciatingly clear in the wake of his emergence as the GOP’s standard-bearer that Republicans are not taking Trump’s transgressions and troubles as opportunities to dump him, but rather to dig in, right by his side, in similarly radical terms.”

“As it escalates, there is every chance that Trump’s supporters will become more radicalized.”

“The Department of Homeland Security has thought since at least 2020 that white nationalists are now the greatest terrorist threat to the American homeland. The odds of a greater increase in far-right terrorism, especially from disgruntled Trump supporters who have been taught to see the Biden administration as part of a tyrannical “Regime,” are rising — and will continue to rise as the broader conservative movement keeps using the virulent anti-government language of the fringe right.

The United States is at a troubling crossroads. If investigators in jurisdictions around the country drop their inquiries into Trump, they are tacitly conceding that he can break any laws without consequence prior to a near-certain 2024 presidential run — an incredibly dangerous precedent. If they continue their work, they risk stoking further unrest and civil conflict, pushing an already polarized country toward an even more dangerous form of division.

Trump and his enablers have taken the country to a very dark place. And we have every reason to believe things will get darker before the dawn.”

With Cheney’s Loss, Just 2 House Republicans Who Voted To Impeach Trump Are On The Ballot In November

“But while Cheney’s loss is particularly high-profile, it is not surprising. Of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump, only two advanced to the general election, four lost their primaries and four didn’t even try to seek reelection, retiring instead.”

“That said, it’s probably not a coincidence that both Valadao and Newhouse won in states that use a top-two primary system. In that format, all voters can cast a ballot that includes every candidate, regardless of party, whereas party primaries mostly involve voters who are either registered with that party or generally back it and who are voting only for candidates from one party. Still, Valadao, the only pro-impeachment Republican running who didn’t face a Trump-endorsed challenger, barely edged out fellow Republican Chris Mathys, an ardent Trump supporter, 26 percent to 23 percent for second place in his top-two primary.1 Newhouse didn’t do much better, essentially tying with the lone Democrat in the race with 25 percent.

In fact, not a single pro-impeachment Republican captured a majority of the GOP primary vote. This amounts to an especially weak set of performances for incumbents, who in most cases easily win their primaries.”

What It Would Mean For Elections If The Supreme Court Embraces An Extreme Legal Theory

“Do state courts have the power to interpret their own state constitutions? The Supreme Court could be poised to say “no” — at least when it comes to redistricting and election law.

Last week, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case Moore v. Harper in the coming fall term. In that case, Republican legislators in North Carolina are asking the court to overturn the state Supreme Court’s decision to throw out their gerrymandered congressional map and impose one of the court’s own.

Their argument rests on an extreme reading of the elections clause of the U.S. Constitution that posits that only state legislatures and Congress have the authority to decide how federal elections are run. Under this school of thought, known as the “independent state legislature” theory, state courts would no longer be able to intervene — even when a legislature violated the state’s constitution, as was found to be the case in North Carolina.

The independent state legislature theory is fewer than 25 years old, and for most of its life, it’s been relegated to the fringes of academia. But it was widely promoted by former President Donald Trump and his allies as they attempted to first undermine — and then overturn — the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. And several Supreme Court justices have already suggested that they’re on board with the theory. During litigation over election laws in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin in 2020, Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch endorsed some version of the idea that state legislatures should have nearly unfettered power over how federal elections are run, and earlier this year, they said in an emergency-docket ruling that they would have ruled in favor of the North Carolina legislature.

If the Supreme Court sides with North Carolina Republicans in this case, it would have massive implications for election law. Depending on how the court rules, state courts might no longer be allowed to strike down legislatures’ proposed congressional maps for being gerrymandered. And if this happens, the way American elections are conducted would change in dramatic and destabilizing ways.”

“An extreme embrace of the theory by the Supreme Court would hand legislatures power over every aspect of how federal elections are run, to the exclusion of not only state courts but also possibly other state actors like governors and election administrators. “It would be a voter suppressor’s fever dream,” Wolf said.”

“the impact wouldn’t stop at redistricting. The Constitution’s elections clause also covers every aspect of how federal elections are run. That includes the 56 voting restrictions passed since the 2020 election — laws that require ID in order to vote, discourage absentee voting, move up voter deadlines, cut early voting, purge voters from the rolls and ban giving food and water to voters waiting in line.”

“Similarly, courts would not be able to unilaterally change federal election laws in an emergency, like the Pennsylvania Supreme Court did in 2020 when it extended the deadline for absentee ballots to be received amid widespread delays in postal service. “If the state legislature says, ‘Polls close at 7 p.m.,’ and on Election Day, there’s a hurricane and the [state] Supreme Court says, ‘Keep them open until 10,’ the legislature wins,” Vladeck said.”

“Some Trump allies have also argued that the independent state legislature theory empowers legislatures to appoint an alternate set of state electors — which, in 2020, could have overturned the presidential election. However, Leah Litman, a law professor at the University of Michigan, said that it’s important to remember that even the independent state legislature theory doesn’t mean state legislatures would be completely unchecked, because the U.S. Constitution would still apply. But she added that part of what alarms her about the theory is that it’s so unclear what embracing it would actually do. “It’s just kind of a mess,” she said of the theory. “We really don’t know what it would look like.””

‘It’s going to be an army’: Tapes reveal GOP plan to contest elections

“Video recordings of Republican Party operatives meeting with grassroots activists provide an inside look at a multi-pronged strategy to target and potentially overturn votes in Democratic precincts: Install trained recruits as regular poll workers and put them in direct contact with party attorneys.

The plan, as outlined by a Republican National Committee staffer in Michigan, includes utilizing rules designed to provide political balance among poll workers to install party-trained volunteers prepared to challenge voters at Democratic-majority polling places, developing a website to connect those workers to local lawyers and establishing a network of party-friendly district attorneys who could intervene to block vote counts at certain precincts.”

“election watchdog groups and legal experts say many of these recruits are answering the RNC’s call because they falsely believe fraud was committed in the 2020 election, so installing them as the supposedly unbiased officials who oversee voting at the precinct level could create chaos in such heavily Democratic precincts.

“This is completely unprecedented in the history of American elections that a political party would be working at this granular level to put a network together,” said Nick Penniman, founder and CEO of Issue One, an election watchdog group. “It looks like now the Trump forces are going directly after the legal system itself and that should concern everyone.”

Penniman also expressed concern about the quick-strike networks of lawyers and DAs being created, suggesting that politically motivated poll workers could simply initiate a legal conflict at the polling place that disrupts voting and then use it as a vehicle for rejecting vote counts from that precinct.”

“On the tapes, some of the would-be poll workers lamented that fraud was committed in 2020 and that the election was “corrupt.” Installing party loyalists on the Board of Canvassers, which is responsible for certifying the election, also appears to be part of the GOP strategy. In Wayne County, which includes Detroit, Republicans nominated to their board a man who said he would not have certified the 2020 election.

Both Penniman and Rick Hasen, a law and political science professor at the University of California, Irvine School of Law, said they see a domino effect that could sow doubts about the election even when there was no original infraction: A politically motivated poll worker connecting with a zealous local lawyer to disrupt voting, followed by a challenge to the Board of Canvassers that may have nothing to do with the underlying dispute but merely the level of disruption at the polling place.

“You shouldn’t have poll workers who are reporting to political organizations what they see,” Hasen said. “It creates the potential for mucking things up at polling places and potentially leading to delays or disenfranchisement of voters,” especially “if [the poll workers] come in with the attitude that something is crooked with how elections are run.””

“Penniman, the election watchdog, believes the strategy is designed to create enough disputes to justify intervention by GOP-controlled state legislatures, who declined to take such steps in 2020.”

China’s new vassal: Vladimir Putin

“When Chairman Mao Zedong visited Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin in the winter of 1949, he was very much the junior supplicant. Stalin packed him off to wait for weeks in his snow-bound No. 2 dacha, 27 kilometers outside Moscow, where the humiliated and constipated Chinese leader grumbled about everything from the quality of the fish to his uncomfortable mattress.

When the two Communist leaders did get to business, Stalin bullied his way to a very favorable deal that put Mao on the hook to buy Russian arms and heavy machinery with a loan on which Beijing would have to pay interest.

Seven decades later, the power dynamics reveal a radical reset. Shortly before invading Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin traveled to the Winter Olympics in Beijing to proclaim the “no limits” friendship with China’s Xi Jinping, but there’s no doubting who the real superpower is in that duo these days. China’s $18-trillion economy is now 10 times mightier than Russia’s. Beijing will hold nearly all the good cards in setting the terms of any financial lifelines from big brother.

As Russia faces a sharply contracting economy under sanctions and an impending oil embargo from Europe, China is the obvious potential benefactor for Putin to turn toward.

Xi shares Putin’s hostility to the West and NATO, but that doesn’t mean he will be offering unalloyed charity. Xi’s overriding strategic concern is China’s prosperity and security, not saving Russia. Beijing is likely to buy at least some oil diverted from Europe, but only at a hefty discount from global benchmarks. China will only help Russia to the extent that it doesn’t attract sanctions and imperil its own ability to sell goods to rich countries in North America and the EU.”

“For years, Chinese officials have been quietly lobbying their Russian counterparts to cut arms sales to India, which has had a sometimes bloody border dispute with Beijing.

Between 2017 and 2022, India was the largest arms export market for Russia, followed by China, according to statistics from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Fighting Indian soldiers armed with Russian equipment may not be fun for China, but it’s certainly a lucrative business for Russia.

Before the war, “Russia was very stubborn and [would] say, ‘Oh, you’re not in a position, China, to dictate us our choices to whom we sell weapons. But I think that China will be in this position probably five years down the road,” said Alexander Gabuev, an expert on Russia-China relations with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a think tank.

India, for its part, is trying to keep an open relationship with Putin. New Delhi, like Beijing, is snapping up cheap oil, even though it’s also eager to maintain strong ties with the U.S.”