House Republican Leader Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, speaks to reporters beside a map of three vacant Allegheny County legislative districts that will be the subjects of special elections next year. (Capitol-Star photo by Peter Hall)
Long-delayed justice for abuse victims has become hostage to the GOP’s partisan attack on voting, abortion rights
By J.J. Abbott
Jan 11, 2023 – Last week, Harrisburg Republicans, who suffered an overwhelming defeat at the ballot box in 2022, celebrated the election of new state House Speaker Mark Rozzi. We’ve learned in the days since that they did so not for Rozzi, a Berks County Democrat, or the hope of finding bipartisan consensus but for their own cynical, purely political reasons.
Rozzi, nominated and supported by both Republicans and Democrats, ran for speaker to advance his life’s work: creating an opportunity for justice for fellow adult victims of child sexual abuse. GOP leaders calculated, instead, that Rozzi’s election to the speakership would further their own political goal of advancing a series of unrelated constitutional amendments covering partisan policy proposals that failed to garner enough support to become law through the usual channels.
In 2022, this GOP package included two election changes borne out of the GOP’s 2020 election denialism, a legislative power-grab around regulations, and a complete ban on abortion rights without any exceptions. Then Republicans lost the governor’s race, nearly all competitive federal races, and 12 House seats and their majority in the state House
The amendment allowing victims of childhood sexual abuse an extended window to sue their attackers garnered wide bipartisan support in three previous legislative sessions. However, the GOP, fresh off losing up-and-down the ticket, now seems to be threatening to withhold their support for a final vote unless they leverage it to add their hyper-partisan agenda into the state constitution, effectively holding victims of abuse hostage to conspiracies spun by former President Donald Trump.
To assuage the fears of victims and advocates and try to prevent bitter fights over unrelated policies, Gov. TomWolf – with Rozzi’s backing – called a special session to focus on getting the window to justice on the ballot by the May primary. Some thought this would help avoid partisan fights over elections and abortion amendments that lack the same urgency or consensus.
Republican leaders were incensed at the prospect of losing this leverage and immediately attacked the governor for calling the special session. Senate Republicans went as far as to say their politically-charged amendments were “equally important” as justice for these victims.
According to a report by NBC10 in Philadelphia, “House Republican Leader Bryan Cutler says there are other, more urgent things they need to prioritize ahead of child sex abuse.”
Seriously? Have they no shame?
In openly admitting they want to hold justice hostage, GOP leaders justified the need for a special session focused on the most urgent matter: justice for these victims.
In addition to no moral comparison between their partisan amendments and justice for abuse victims, there is no urgent need or policy rationale for these election and regulation changes other than the political goals of the Republican Party.
Pennsylvania law already requires ID to vote and mandates state-run audits of every election. Voter impersonation almost never happens and audits typically find only small computation errors, if anything at all. So while nearly three-in-four Pennsylvania voters said in 2022 exit polls that they were confident PA had fair elections, GOP leaders continue to push these amendments because Republicans think they will help them win elections.
For years, Pennsylvania’s counties outlined urgently needed election policy updates. Unfortunately, in a similar act of political gamesmanship, those bipartisan, consensus changes also remain victims to GOP hostage-taking.
A much more responsible approach would be to engage in the traditional legislative process of building consensus towards some sort of comprehensive elections reform bill, instead of ramming bad policy into the constitution because you failed to pass it the right way.
GOP leaders seem ready to force their members to engage in a raw political exercise of derailing and delaying justice for abuse victims over these other amendments.
In 2018, four incumbent Republican senators lost re-election after they voted against a statutory change similar to the proposed constitutional amendment. The GOP’s latest legislating by hostage-taking creates a tough partisan pill for these members to swallow with huge political risks.
This unseemly approach is a reminder of why voters overwhelmingly rejected the GOP last election after decades of their control of Harrisburg lawmaking.
Voters are tired of business as usual in Harrisburg and clearly rejected the GOP’s extreme agenda in 2022. But Republican leaders in Harrisburg prove once again that they don’t care what the voters think.
J.J. Abbott served as press secretary and deputy press Secretary for Gov. Tom Wolf from 2015 until 2020. He now serves as executive director of Commonwealth Communications, a Pennsylvania progressive communications non-profit.
Devoutly Jewish, Josh Shapiro wants to persuade voters that his opponent’s Christian nationalism doesn’t represent the values of the state.
By Holly Otterbein Politico
Sept 14, 2022 – PHILADELPHIA — In one of the poorest neighborhoods in one of the poorest big cities in the country, blocks away from where a woman was gunned down just the day before, Josh Shapiro is singing with a group of Black pastors.
Shapiro, a type-A attorney general running to be the Democratic governor of Pennsylvania, rocks in his pew. When a reverend asks the churchgoers to lift up their voices, he looks her in the eye and finishes her sentence, pronouncing “me” when she croons, “What God has for me, it is for me.” He then proceeds to give a 30-minute speech that was supposed to be closer to half as long.
Unlike some before him, Josh Shapiro hasn’t downplayed his religion out of a fear of appearing different. To the contrary, he’s made his faith — and fighting anti-Semitism — a central part of his political persona.
“I want you to know that being up here on the pulpit means a lot to me — and it is a place where I feel comfortable,” says Shapiro. “I feel comfortable here because this is a place of spirituality, this is a place of purpose.”
Shapiro, 49, who describes himself as a Conservative Jew from the Philadelphia suburbs, talks about being raised to bring faith “out in the community and make a difference.” He refers to Martin Luther King Jr. and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, the spiritual icons who forged a friendship during the civil rights movement. He quotes from an ancient collection of Jewish teachings: “No one is required to complete the task, but neither are we free to refrain from it.”
The battle for governor in Pennsylvania is one of the most consequential races in the country: It could determine whether women have the right to an abortion and all voters have the right to cast a ballot in a pivotal battleground state. Shapiro’s Republican opponent, Doug Mastriano, led the movement in the state to overturn Joe Biden’s election and opposes abortion with no exceptions.
Mastriano, a state senator who is widely seen as the archetype of the rise of Christian nationalism in the GOP, is courting MAGA-aligned Evangelicals and other conservative Christians. Though he rejects that label, he has said the separation of church and state is a “myth.” Mastriano also has ties to antisemites, and this week he used an antisemitic trope, portraying Shapiro as out of touch with everyday Pennsylvanians for attending what he called “one of the most privileged schools in the nation,” a Jewish private school.
Shapiro’s response has not been to decry the entry of religion into the race; in some ways, he has amplified it. He says he doesn’t want to tell anyone “what to believe.” (“I’ll be a governor that relies on my faith and my upbringing to actually look out for everybody,” Shapiro says. “And I think he’s the exact opposite.”) But he refuses to cede Pennsylvania’s churches to his opponent. Instead, he deliberately highlights his religiosity to appeal to Christians and people of other faiths who might feel alienated by Mastriano’s brand of religion-tinged conservatism.
If Shapiro can fend off the far-right firebrand, he would catapult into the position of one of the most prominent Jewish elected officials in the country — and be talked about within political circles as a future presidential or vice-presidential candidate. And he’d do it by being a new kind of Jewish politician. Unlike some before him, Shapiro hasn’t downplayed his religion out of a fear of appearing different. To the contrary, he’s made his faith — and fighting antisemitism — a central part of his political persona.
“People are looking for someone who has strong faith. It almost doesn’t matter what denomination it is,” says former Democratic governor Ed Rendell.
Shapiro sees his Judaism as a tool to bond with people, not as something that sets him apart. On this sun-drenched September morning in Philadelphia, at least, his strategy seems to be working.
Speaking to the dozen powerful pastors of nearby AME churches, all of whom could help him turn out critical Black voters in November, Rev. Dr. Janet Jenkins Sturdivant says Shapiro is “not a perfect man.” But he is a “man of God — and all we need is someone who will listen to God.”
Josh Shapiro in a Quiet Rage
“NO good jews.” “America jews themselves are a cancer on any society.” “I hope no one votes Jew.”
The frothing messages from users of Gab, a far-right social media network, flash on the screen. A narrator explains that Mastriano’s campaign paid the website, the same one where Robert Bowers posted antisemitic screeds before police say he massacred 11 people in 2018 at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue. Mastriano, the spot hammers, is “way too extreme.”
By Bruce Siwy The Times: Pennsylvania State Capital Bureau
Three prominent Pennsylvania Republicans have been identified as “a grave danger to American democracy” in a new report.
The report — expected to be issued this week by the Defend Democracy Project, an organization founded by two men who worked for the Obama campaign and administration — gives these distinctions to state senator and gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano, U.S. Rep. Scott Perry (R-10) and U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly (R-16). Authors cited the trio’s involvement in an array of activities related to former President Donald Trump’s efforts to challenge the 2020 election results.
“These three individuals all took part in unprecedented attempts to overturn the will of American voters, but that is not all they have in common — Mastriano, Perry, and Kelly continue to pose a grave danger to American democracy,” the report states. “Together with other MAGA Republicans, they are leading a scorched earth campaign to consolidate power over elections for decades to come, both in Pennsylvania and across the country.”
Michael Berman, a state director for the Defend Democracy Project, characterized Trump and some of his allies as part of an “ongoing, violent criminal conspiracy” in a call with reporters Tuesday.
The organization’s mission is to “work with leading organizations, noted experts and critical validators to make sure this plot to overturn elections can’t go forward under the cover of darkness,” according to its website. It’s working in six other states besides Pennsylvania — Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina and Wisconsin.
A “wanted” flier distributed by activists with the 10th District Network that accuses U.S. Rep Scott Perry (R-10) of sedition.
In their rationale for Mastriano’s inclusion, the Defend Democracy Project listed the following concerns:
His call for treating the popular vote as non-binding for presidential electors if the “election was compromised.”
His legally questionable proposal to force all Pennsylvanians to re-register to vote.]
His use of campaign cash to bus supporters to the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
And his attempts to bring an election audit to Pennsylvania, similar to what was conducted in Arizona.
Mastriano — who’s demonstrated a routine avoidance of media outside of explicitly right-wing circles — has consistently doubled down on unproven claims of widespread voter fraud. Earlier this year his bill to expand the use of poll watchers across the commonwealth was vetoed by Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, who cited concern that the measure would undermine “the integrity of our election process and (encourage) voter intimidation.”
Regarding Perry, the nonprofit noted:
Testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson stating that Perry met with Trump officials bent on overturning the 2020 election.
His use of conspiracy theories to urge investigations from White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, according to records provided by Meadows.
His work as a liaison between the White House and Pennsylvania Legislature in coordinating efforts to delay or object to the commonwealth’s Electoral College votes for now-President Joe Biden.
Perry’s office did not return a call by press deadline. Earlier this year he said he’d done nothing wrong in relation to these matters.
“My conversations with the president or the Assistant Attorney General, as they have been with all with whom I’ve engaged following the election, were a reiteration of the many concerns about the integrity of our elections, and that those allegations should at least be investigated to ease the minds of the voters that they had, indeed, participated in a free and fair election,” Perry said in a statement in January.
House investigators said May 12, 2022, that they have issued subpoenas to House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and four other GOP lawmakers, including Perry, as part of their probe into the violent Jan. 6 insurrection, an extraordinary step that has little precedent and is certain to further inflame partisan tensions over the 2021 attack. (AP
Kelly, meanwhile, was cited for:
His unsuccessful court challenge to the legality of 2020 mail ballots in Pennsylvania.
His vote to overturn the 2020 election results. An allegation by U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) that he helped to orchestrate a false elector scheme.
Comments such as his claim that former President Barack Obama “is to run a shadow government that is gonna totally upset the new (Trump) agenda.”
Asked in July if he still believed that the election was stolen from Trump, Kelly told an Erie Times-News reporter: “Well, we’re already what, almost two years into this administration? So I think that’s past tense. There’s no use discussing it today. Nothing’s going to change today. I stated my opinions back when it took place.”
Kelly’s office did not return a phone call by press deadline.
What’s on voters’ minds:’In a whirlwind of trouble’: PA poll reveals top concerns (spoiler: It’s the economy…)
About the Defend Democracy Project The Defend Democracy Project describes its mission as ensuring that “American voters determine the outcome of elections.” It was established earlier this year.
According to Berman, the organization was founded by Leslie Dach and Brad Woodhouse.
An online bio for Dach states that he served as senior counselor to the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services as its global Ebola coordinator. He’s also served as senior adviser to six presidential campaigns, including Hillary Clinton’s 2016 run.
Woodhouse, in his bio, is characterized as “a longtime Democratic strategist, having previously served as President of some of the nation’s leading progressive groups including Correct the Record, American Bridge 21st Century, and Americans United for Change.” It also states that he worked as a senior strategist for the Obama campaign and communications director for the Democratic National Committee.
Berman said the Defend Democracy Project examined the public records and statements of politicians across the country and compiled its list based on those who objected to certifying the 2020 election or implied that it was “stolen” from Trump.
Bruce Siwy is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network’s Pennsylvania state capital bureau. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @BruceSiwy.
Photo: Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano speaks during a rally at Archery Addictions on May 13, 2022 in Lehighton, Pennsylvania. With less than a week until Pennsylvania’s primary election on Tuesday May 17, polls have Republican candidate Doug Mastriano as the front runner in the Governor’s primary race. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
Stop the Steal is only a pretense for seizing control.
By Amanda Carpenter
JULY 5, 2022 – By now, political junkies are familiar with the rucksack of election-denying baggage that Pennsylvania GOP gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano schleps around: He organized a faux post-election legal hearing for Rudy Giuliani in Gettysburg; he asked Congress to deny Pennsylvania’s electors; he spent thousands of campaign funds busing people to the Capitol on Jan. 6th; he was filmed crossing police barricades; some of his supporters were arrested for their activities that day, and he visited Arizona to observe its disastrous Cyber Ninjas audit in hopes of replicating it in Pennsylvania.
Those are only the highlights of what Mastriano has done in the past. But what about the future? People like Mastriano are never going to let Donald Trump’s 2020 election loss go. If anything, Trump’s “Stop the Steal” lies provide a pretext for actions intended to ensure MAGA types win in future elections.
How will they do it? Well, Mastriano has some ideas. (Well above and beyond hiring Trump’s throne-sniffing flack Jenna Ellis as his legal adviser.)
Although Mastriano evades scrutiny by blockading typical media interviews, with some help from his insurrection-friendly friends, he doesn’t hesitate to talk about his plans when he feels comfortable. Put those snippets together, and it shows Mastriano has a pretty well-thought-out election takeover plan in mind.
His platform includes the following:
–loosening restrictions on poll watchers to make it easier to challenge votes;
–repealing vote-by-mail laws;
–appointing a fellow 2020 election-denier to be secretary of state who could enable him to decertify every voting machine “with a stroke of a pen”;
–forcing all Pennsylvania voters to re-register;
–and defunding the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
Let’s take them one by one.
Last month, Mastriano’s legislation to loosen restrictions on poll watchers passed both houses of the General Assembly. Its passage on party-line votes by the GOP-controlled legislature is not surprising, since one of the problems that frustrated Trump supporters in 2020 is that they could not recruit in-county residents in blue areas, such as Philadelphia, to serve as poll workers and make challenges to votes. Mastriano’s bill changes that.
If the bill were signed into law—which Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has said he will not do—it would increase the number of poll watchers permitted by candidates from two to three, kill in-county residency requirements for poll watchers, and give poll watchers a “clear line of sight to view and hear” election workers and voters “at a distance of six feet or less.”
What could these poll watchers do with this increased capacity? Per Pennsylvania state guidance, poll watchers are empowered to “make good faith challenges to an elector’s identity, continued residence in the election district, or qualifications as an eligible voter.”
Such challenges are directed to the judge of elections, who “has the obligation to determine if the challenge is based on actual evidence and whether there is a good faith basis to believe that the person is not or may not be a qualified elector.” Democratic critics of the bill object that the close proximity of poll watchers brought in from out of the county raises the likelihood of voter intimidation.
In a statement, Trump encouraged Pennsylvania Republicans to tie passage of this bill and other election-related restrictions to the state budget:
Just as Trump called for, Mastriano has also promoted legislation to ban dropboxes and private funding for elections, as well as to eliminate “no excuse” mail-in voting and the permanent absentee voter list.
But Mastriano’s potential powers as governor far exceed that of a state senator when it comes to controlling Pennsylvania’s elections.
Unlike many other states where the secretary of state is an elected position, in Pennsylvania, the governor gets to make an appointment for the position. Mastriano already has his pick in mind and, although he hasn’t provided a name, he has teased that with this appointment and his powers, he could “decertify every machine in the state with a stroke of a pen via the secretary of state.” He said, as captured via audio, here:
“I’m Doug Mastriano, and I get to appoint the secretary of state, who’s delegated from me the power to make the corrections to elections, the voting logs, and everything. I could decertify every machine in the state with the, you know, with the stroke of a pen via my secretary of state. I already have the secretary of state picked out. It’s a world-class person that knows voting integrity better than anyone else in the nation, I think, and I already have a team that’s gonna be built around that individual.”
This is why Mastriano probably feels like he has a sporting chance to reset the voter rolls and force all of Pennsylvania’s 9 million voters to submit new voter applications to re-register to vote.
Federal voting laws prohibit such a practice, but that doesn’t deter Mastriano from campaigning on it and may not prevent Governor Mastriano from trying it—and creating a massive tangle of legal problems in the face of looming election deadlines.
Where would those legal challenges be decided? Most likely, in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. And for that, Mastriano has another idea in mind in case things don’t go his way.
If the state’s highest court doesn’t do as he pleases, he thinks it should be defunded, which is something he’s called for after the 2020 election. Here he is on a podcast* in November 2020:
“I wish the General Assembly, we would do our darn job here, and make them feel some pain. We could, we could, rein in elements. Even, we even, budget and fund the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. If we are so, we’re out there as you know, shouting outrage about how they’re rewriting law, then, okay, maybe we should defund them. And let them figure out how they’re going to run a business without a budget. …” Read More
We can best understand the major political parties in the U.S. as constantly changing coalitions with no firm commitment to program or discipline.
The electoral strategic terrain is constantly changing, and we don’t want to be stuck with old maps and faulty models. In 2014, I first suggested setting aside the traditional “two-party system” frame for US politics, which obscures far more than it reveals, and making use of a “six-party” model instead. Every two years, I’ve revised the model, and now, with the November 2022 elections coming up, it’s time for another update. What follows is an abbreviated version of the explanation; you can read it in full here.
Some critics have objected to my use of the term “party” for factional or interest group clusters. The point is taken, but I would also argue that the major parties in the U.S., in general, are not ideological parties in the European sense. Instead, they are constantly changing coalitions of these clusters with no firm commitment to program or discipline.
The Democratic and the Republican Party each contain three such clusters, as they have since 2016. Under the Democratic tent, the three main groups remain the Blue Dogs, the Third Way Centrists and the Rainbow Social Democrats. The GOP umbrella covers Donald Trump’s Rightwing Populists, the Christian Nationalists, and the Never-Trumpers.
But since our last update in 2018, the question of a clear and present danger of fascism has moved from the margins to the center of political discourse. Far from an ongoing abstract debate, we are now watching its hidden elements come to light every day in the media. We also see the ongoing machinations in the GOP hierarchy and in state legislatures reshaping election laws in their favor. Now, the question is not whether a fascist danger exists, but how to fight and defeat it.
So here’s the new snapshot of the range of forces for today.
The Six-Party System
The Right-wing Populists
This “party,” as mentioned, has taken over the GOP and is now tightening its grip.
The economic core of right-wing populism remains anti-global “producerism versus parasitism.” Employed workers, business owners, real estate developers, small bankers are all “producers.” They oppose “parasite” groups above and below, but mainly those below them—the unemployed (“Get a Job!” as an epithet), the immigrants, poor people of color, Muslims, and “the Other” generally. When they attack those above, the target is usually George Soros, a Jew.
Recall that Trump entered politics by declaring Obama to be an illegal alien and an illegitimate officeholder (a parasite above), but quickly shifted to Mexicans and Muslims and anyone associated with Black Lives Matter. This aimed to pull out the fascist and white supremacist groups of the “Alt Right”–using Breitbart and worse to widen their circles, bringing them closer to Trump’s core. With these fascists as ready reserves, Trump reached further into Blue Dog territory, and its better-off workers, retirees, and business owners conflicted with white identity issues—immigration, Islamophobia, misogyny, and more. Today they still largely make up the audience at his mass rallies.
Trump’s outlook is not new. It has deep roots in American history, from the anti-Indian ethnic cleansing of President Andrew Jackson to the nativism of the Know-Nothings, to the nullification theories of John C. Calhoun, to the lynch terror of the KKK, to the anti-elitism and segregation of George Wallace and the Dixiecrats. Internationally, Trump combines aggressive jingoism, threats of trade wars, and an isolationist ‘economic nationalism’ aimed at getting others abroad to fight your battles for you. At the same time, your team picks up the loot (“We should have seized and kept the oil!”).
Trump’s GOP still contains his internal weaknesses: the volatile support of distressed white workers and small producers. At present, they are still forming a key social base. But the problem is that Trump did not implement any substantive programs apart from tax cuts. These mainly benefited the top 10% and created an unstable class contradiction in his operation. Most of what Trump has paid out is what WEB Dubois called the “psychological wage” of “whiteness,” a dubious status position. Trump’s white supremacist demagogy and misogyny will also continue to unite a wide array of all nationalities of color and many women and youth against him.
Trump’s religious ignorance, sexual assaults and a porn star scandal always pained his alliance with the Christian Nationalist faction (Mike Pence, Betsy DeVos, et. al.), and the DeVos family (Amway fortune). They were willing to go along with Trump’s amoral lifestyle for the sake of his pending judicial appointments. The Feb 7, 2022 5-4 Supreme Court ruling on gerrymandering against Black voters in Alabama is only one case in point. The Trump-Christian alliance, nonetheless, has become more frayed since Jan. 6 and the ‘Hang Mike Pence’ spectacle.
2. The Christian Nationalists
This “party” grew from a subset of the former Tea Party bloc. It’s made up of several Christian rightist trends developed over decades, which gained more coherence under Vice President Mike Pence. It includes conservative evangelicals seeking to recast a patriarchal and racist John Wayne into a new warrior version of Jesus.
A good number of Christian nationalists are Protestant theocracy-minded fundamentalists, especially the “Dominionist” sects in which Ted Cruz’s father was active. The ‘End Times’ Domininists present themselves as the only true, “values-centered” (Biblical) conservatives. They argue against any kind of compromise with the globalist “liberal-socialist bloc,” which ranges, in their view, from the GOP’s Mitt Romney to Bernie Sanders. They are more akin to classical liberalism than neoliberalism in economic policy. This means abandoning nearly all regulations, much of the safety net, overturning Roe v. Wade, getting rid of marriage equality (in the name of ‘religious liberty’) and abolishing the IRS and any progressive taxation in favor of a single flat tax.
The classic liberalism of most Christian Nationalist is also a key reason they attract money from the Koch Brothers networks. While the Kochs hold Trump and his populists in some contempt, the Christian Nationalist faction has access to Koch funds and its American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) legislative projects, along with access to the DeVos fortunes. Effectively, Christian nationalist prosperity economics amounts to affirmative action for the better-off, where the rise of the rich is supposed to pull everyone else upwards. Those below must also pay their tithes and pull upward with their “bootstraps.” They argue for neo-isolationism on some matters of foreign policy. But as “Christian Zionists” they favor an all-out holy war on “radical Islamic terrorism,” to the point of “making the sand glow” with the use of nuclear weapons. They pushed for moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and ripping up the Iran nuclear deal. All this is aimed at greasing the skids for the “End Times” and the “Second Coming.” With Cruz, Pence and DeVos as leaders, they have become the second most powerful grouping under the GOP tent, and the one with the most reactionary platform and outlook, even more so than Trump himself in some ways.
3. The Establishment Neoliberal ‘RINOs’
This is the name now widely used in the media for what we previously labeled the Multinationalists. It’s mainly the upper crust and neoliberal business elites that have owned and run the GOP for years, but they are now largely out in the cold. This neoliberal grouping included the quasi-libertarian House Freedom Caucus, the smaller group of NeoCons on foreign policy (John Bolton and John McCain), and the shrinking number of RINO (Republican In Name Only) moderates in The Lincoln Project. The Establishment also favors a globalist, U.S. hegemonist, and even, at times, a unilateralist approach abroad, with some still defending the Bush-Cheney disaster in Iraq. Their prominent voice today is Liz Cheney of Wyoming.
We also need to keep in mind the global backdrop to these shifts. The worldwide process of technology-driven financialization has divided the ruling class of late capitalism in every major country into three—a local sector of the transnational capitalist class, the nation-based multinationals, and an anti-globalist national sector. Thus among traditional U.S. neoliberals, some are U.S. hegemonists, but many have a transnational globalist understanding of the world with vast amounts of their money in foreign stock. China and global value chains integrate them with other global capitalists. This is why Trump’s trade policy is so controversial with Wall Street elites of both Republican and Democratic leanings. U.S. economic hegemony makes no sense at this financial and productive integration level. The global three-way division also serves to explain why Trump’s rightwing populism, despite its American characteristics, is connected to the rightwing nationalist-populist rise in all European countries. He is not ‘explainable’ in American terms alone.
This subordination is a big change for the traditional GOP top dogs. They would like to purge a weakened Trump from the party and rebuild, but so far lack the ability. They could try to form a new party with neoliberal Dems. Or, more likely, they could join the Dems and try to push out or smother those to the left of the Third Way grouping. At the moment, however, the much-weakened GOP’s old Establishment is left with the choice of surrender, or crossing over to the Third Way bloc under the Dem tent. A good number already did so to vote for Biden in the Dem 2020 primary and general, expanding the Dem electorate to the right.
Now let’s turn to the Dem tent, starting at the top of the graphic.
4. The Blue Dogs
The Blue Dog grouping has close ties to big corporate interests, including the fossil fuel and health insurance industries and Big Pharma. It has PACs “that raise millions of dollars every cycle from hundreds of corporate PACs, then send maximum donations of $10,000 back out to their members and more business-friendly Democratic House candidates.”
This small “party” has persisted and gained some energy. The recent effort of West Virginia’s Senator Joe Manchin to block or gut Biden’s reforms is a case in point. One earlier reason was that the United Steel Workers and a few craft unions had decided to work with Trump on tariffs and trade. The USW also got firmly behind Connor Lamb (D-PA) for Congress. Lamb won a narrow victory in a rural, conservative Western Pennsylvania congressional district, but with many USW members’ votes. He was endorsed by the Blue Dog PAC, although he is not a formal member of the caucus. Getting into a nearly physical floor fight with the GOP over Jan. 6 “radicalized” Lamb a bit, moving him leftward.
But the small Blue Dog resurgence may not last. On the one hand, the DNC Third Way gang currently loves people like Lamb, and wants to see more candidates leaning to the center and even the right. On the other hand, an unstable Trump out of office has little to offer on major infrastructure plans save for “Build The Wall” chanting at rallies. His potential votes among USW and other union members may shrink.
5. The Third Way New Democrats
First formed by the Clintons, with international assistance from Tony Blair and others, this dominant “party” was funded by Wall Street finance capitalists. The founding idea was to move toward neoliberalism by creating distance between themselves and the traditional Left-labor-liberal bloc, i.e., the traditional unions and civil rights groups still connected to the New Deal legacy. Another part of Third Way thinking was to shift the key social base away from the core of the working class toward college-educated suburban voters, but keeping alliances with Black and women’s groups still functional.
Thus the Third Way had tried to temper the harsher neoliberalism of the GOP by ‘triangulating’ to find neo-Keynesian and left-Keynesian compromise policies. The overall effect has been to move Democrats and their platform generally rightward. With Hillary Clinton’s narrow defeat, the Third Way’s power in the party diminished somewhat, but it gained clout with the Biden victory.
As mentioned above, its labor alliances have weakened, with unions now going in three directions. Most of labor has remained with the Third Way. Some moved rightward to the Blue Dogs while others—Communications Workers, National Nurses United, and the U.E.—endorsed Bernie Sanders and are part of the social-democratic bloc. Regarding the current relation of forces in the party apparatus, the Third Way has about 60% of the positions and still controls the major money.
The key test was the November 2020 battle with Trump: Which political grouping under the Dem tent in 2020 inspired and mobilized new forces within the much-needed ‘Blue Wave’, gave it focus and put the right numbers in the right places? This question brings us to the last of the six “parties.”
6..The Rainbow Social Democrats
This description is better than simply calling it the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), as this article’s first version did. I’ve kept the “Rainbow” designation because of the dynamic energy of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Squad. (The Third Way has kept the older and more pragmatic voters of the rainbow groupings under its centrist influence.)
The “Social Democrat” title doesn’t mean each leader or activist here is in a social-democrat or democratic socialist group like DSA. It means the core groups–the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Progressive Democrats of America (PDA), Working Families Party (WFP), Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), Justice Democrats and Our Revolution and Indivisible—all have platforms that are roughly similar to the left social democrat groupings in Europe. Germany’s Die Linke’s election platform, for example, is not that different from Bernie’s or the Working Families Party. This is made even more evident with AOC and Bernie’s self-descriptions as “democratic socialists” in the 2020 primaries and the general election, where it only seemed to help. The platform, however, is not socialist itself, but best described as a common front against finance capital, war, and the white supremacist and fascist right. This is true of groups like Die Linke as well, which met recently with PDA and Congressional Progressive Caucus members.
This grouping has also been energized by the dramatic growth of the DSA since the 2016 Sanders campaign. Now with nearly 100.000 members and chapters in every state, DSA has already won a few local and statehouse races. They are now an important player in their own right within these local clusters.
This overall growth of this “party” is all for the good. The common front approach of the Social Democratic bloc can unite more than a militant minority of people who identify as socialists. It can draw a progressive majority together around both immediate needs and structural reforms, expressed in a platform like the “Third Reconstruction” program championed by the Poor People’s Campaign.
What does it all mean?
With this brief descriptive and analytical mapping of American politics, many things are falling into place. The formerly subaltern rightist groupings in the GOP have risen in revolt against the Neoliberal Establishment of the Cheneys, Romneys and the Bushes. Now they have rightwing populist and white nationalist hegemony. The GOP, then, can be accurately called the party of the neo-Confederates and the main target of a popular, anti-fascist front. Under the other tent, the Third Way is seeking a new post-neoliberal platform, through President Joe Biden’s reforms. The progressive-center unity of the earlier Obama coalition, with all its constituency alliances, is still in place. At the same time, the Third Way still wants to co-opt and control the Social Democrats as an energetic but critical secondary ally. The Sanders forces have few illusions about this pressure on them, and don’t want to be anyone’s subaltern without a fight. So we on the Left are continuing to press all our issues, but adapting some policies to the common front against the fascist right. If we work well, we will build more base organizations, more alliances, and more clout as we go.
A longer version of this article can be found HERE at the Online University of the Left
The map slightly favors Republicans — with some important wins for Democrats.
Pennsylvania’s new congressional map, as chosen by the state Supreme Court.
By Jonathan Lai Philadelphia Inquirer
Feb 23, 2022 – The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has selected a new congressional map that will shape power and politics for the next decade, one that’s largely based on the current map and slightly favors Republicans — but with some important wins for Democrats.
In a 4-3 decision Wednesday, the court chose a map that was drawn by a Stanford professor and proposed by Democratic plaintiffs. It’s a major decision for the justices, one that will draw intense political scrutiny for the court’s elected Democratic majority. It also left the state’s May 17 primary in place, despite worries it would need to be delayed.
Congressional maps are redrawn every decade to reflect changes in population, and Pennsylvania has a history of partisan gerrymandering — drawing maps to unfairly favor one political party. With the state losing one of its 18 seats in the House of Representatives, the new districts will help determine control of Congress and how communities are represented in the years to come.
With at least four competitive House districts, Pennsylvania is a key battleground in this year’s campaign for control of Congress, with Republicans needing to gain just five seats nationwide to take the majority.
The new map was drawn by Jonathan Rodden, a well-known Stanford expert on redistricting and political geography. Rodden drew the map based on the current one, using a “least-change” approach.
It creates nine districts that voted for Donald Trump in 2016 and 2020, and eight that voted for Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, according to a detailed data analysis conducted for The Inquirer by the nonpartisan Princeton Gerrymandering Project. It slightly favors Republicans on multiple measures of partisan skew, according to the analysis.
Looking at the two-party vote share in the two most recent presidential and U.S. Senate elections, The Inquirer classifies six of the districts as strongly Republican, five as strongly Democratic, and three each as leaning Democratic and Republican. Four districts in the new map are so closely divided that either party could realistically win them, the same as in the previous version, and a few others could become competitive in wave elections.
Unlike redistricting in some other states this year, the new Pennsylvania map doesn’t reduce the number of competitive swing seats.
But there are some individual winners and losers within the parties.
A voter drops off their mail-in ballot prior to the primary election, in Willow Grove, Montgomery County, May 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
The For the People Act Could Be the Solution. As the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania Legislature works to pass voter suppression laws, Democrats in Congress have one chance to stop the assault on voting rights.
By Keya Vakil The Keystone
MARCH 23, 2021 – WASHINGTON — Earlier this month, President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan into law, sending $1,400 stimulus checks to most Pennsylvanians, extending federal unemployment benefits, providing most parents a guaranteed monthly income, giving schools money to reopen, and bolstering vaccine production and distribution.
The passage of the bill, which was backed by 59% of Pennsylvanians, according to a recent poll, was only possible because Pennsylvania residents voted in record numbers in November to send Biden to the White House.
Now, Republicans in the state Legislature are responding to Biden’s victory by introducing a flurry of bills that would make it more difficult to vote.
To stop the GOP’s war on voting rights, Democrats at the national level have one arrow left in their quiver: the For The People Act (HR 1).
Passed by the US House on March 3, HR 1 would allow automatic voter registration, set unified early and mail-in voting standards, enact campaign finance reform, and modernize elections while ensuring their security.
The bill is also all but certain to stall out in the Senate.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) has made clear he opposes the comprehensive democracy reform bill. If Democrats choose to eliminate the filibuster—a Senate procedure that allows any one senator to obstruct a bill from being voted on and requires 60 senators to override—they could pass the For the People Act with their 50-vote majority and halt the voter suppression efforts in Pennsylvania.
Republican lawmakers in states across the country have introduced more than 250 bills to disenfranchise voters, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School. Pennsylvania is among the states leading the way in these efforts, as legislators have proposed more than a dozen bills designed to restrict voting access.
The battles over the For the People Act and the filibuster will play out in the coming weeks and months. As Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania and other states have made clear, there is a lot at stake.
‘Divorced From Reality’
Even though former President Donald Trump lost Pennsylvania, 2020 was, by all accounts, a good year for the state GOP. They gained seats in the legislature, won two of three statewide races, and held onto all nine of their congressional seats.
A supporter of President Donald Trump sits inside the office of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi as he protests inside the U.S. Capito lon Wednesday. Demonstrators breached security and entered the Capitol as Congress debated the 2020 presidential election Electoral Vote Certification.
Republicans jettisoned personal responsibility long before fiscal responsibility
By Tony Norman Pittsburgh PostGazette Columnist
JAN 12, 2021 – Gruesome details of what happened at the Capitol on Jan. 6 when thousands of deranged followers of President Donald Trump attempted to disrupt the certification of Joe Biden’s electoral victory continued to emerge over the weekend.
We now know about the feces that was smeared across the marbled walls and tracked across once pristine floors. We’ve heard the details about one Capitol Hill police officer beaten to death with a fire extinguisher and we’ve seen the footage of other cops being beaten with broken flag poles by a mob that assures us that “Blue Lives Matter” — except when they don’t.
We’ve heard recordings of the chants “hang Mike Pence” and “bring us Nancy [Pelosi]” by a crowd that erected a hanging post just outside the Capitol grounds. The footage of men running around with plastic zip ties, as if they had expected to take hostages, sends chills because they came within minutes of decapitating the legislative branch of the U.S. government.
It is now clear that with the exception of individual acts of valor — including the officer who lured the mob away from the Senate chamber, where members were evacuating — there was a complete breakdown of security. If the bulk of the insurrectionists had been highly trained Jihadists instead of hypedup QAnon crackpots, they would still be wiping the blood from the floor nearly a week later.
On Tuesday in an attempt to assign responsibility for the assault on the Capitol, the House of Representatives introduced a resolution to impeach Donald J. Trump for the second time.
This followed a weekend in which Mr. Trump found his access to social media permanently denied by two billionaires in California because of his penchant for telling lies that foment sedition and undermine American democracy.
Vice President Mike Pence also made it clear that he reserves the right to use the 25th Amendment should Mr. Trump step out of line during his remaining two weeks in office. The PGA and other bastions of corporate America are unilaterally canceling contracts with Mr. Trump’s companies and resorts rather than be smeared by association with the soontobeimpeached and probably indicted former president.
It is all an attempt to hold a man who denies responsibility for anything responsible for the single greatest — if incompetently staged — coup in American history.
The reactions to Mr. Trump’s turn in fortune have been interesting to watch. Those who typically bellow loudest about personal responsibility rarely show an inclination to take it.
As the latest round of “whatabout” politics proved, all the nattering about Jesus, justice and jurisprudence is just virtue signaling by the right wing — a way to distinguish itself from the socalled “woke mob” of the left.
But when it comes to mobs, “woke” or otherwise, the supporters of Donald Trump are now second to none in America’s fractured discourse. They have a body count of four supporters and one dead cop (and another by suicide) to prove it.
While sincere conservatives have gone into the witness protection program, most Republican elected officials haven’t been serious about personal responsibility in years.
The runup to the Iraq War, the criminal incompetence of the government’s response to Katrina and four years of the Trump administration’s moral callousness has all but scrubbed the terms “repentance” and “responsibility” from the GOP playbook.
Pennsylvania is home to a particularly odious brand of hypocritical rightwing populism and politician. Their ridiculous posturing has been especially evident during Mr. Trump’s attempt to disenfranchise our state’s voters and decertify Mr. Biden as the rightful winner of our 20 electoral votes.
PA GENERAL ASSEMBLY: Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (center) confers with Senate Secretary Megan Martin (right), as Sen. Jake Corman (front, center), takes over the session to conduct a vote to remove Fetterman from residing over the session in Harrisburg on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021. Bobby Maggio, Fetterman’s chief of staff, stands to the left.
The Fascist Danger in Our Statehouse
By Angela Couloumbis and Cynthia Fernandez Spotlight PA
Jan. 5, 2021 – HARRISBURG — The new session of the Pennsylvania Senate got off to a chaotic start Tuesday, with Republicans refusing to seat a Democratic senator whose election victory has been certified by state officials.
Amid high emotions and partisan fingerpointing, Republicans also took the rare step of removing the Democratic lieutenant governor, John Fetterman, from presiding over the session. They apparently did so because they did not believe Fetterman was following the rules and recognizing their legislative motions.
Democrats, in turn, responded by refusing to back Sen. Jake Corman (R., Centre) from assuming the chamber’s top leadership position — an unusual maneuver on what is most often a largely ceremonial and bipartisan vote.
The bitterness and rancor on display was a departure from the normally staid and sedate workings of the chamber. And it potentially sets the stage for a tumultuous twoyear session, which will include debate over key legislative priorities such as redistricting.
“With this reckless, outofcontrol, cowboylike behavior, with this Trumpian behavior that we saw today from Republicans … this does not bode well. It does not bode well for the people of Pennsylvania,” said Sen. Vince Hughes of Philadelphia, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee.
For now, at least, Democratic state Sen. Jim Brewster, of Allegheny County, will not be allowed to take the oath of office, as Republicans believe litigation over the outcome in his race must first play out in federal court. GOP leaders have said the state constitution gives senators the authority to refuse to seat a member if they believe the person does not meet the qualifications to hold office.
Brewster narrowly won reelection over Republican challenger Nicole Ziccarelli, who is asking a federal judge to throw out the election results. At the center of that legal dispute is several hundred mail ballots that lacked a handwritten date on an outer envelope, as required by state law. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court allowed those ballots to be counted, which gave Brewster the edge in the race.
Above: Troy Johnson of Aliquippa speaks up on election turmoil
MILTON, Pa. — Kareem Williams Jr. sits on a park bench in the center of town and waits for the racists to attack. He tells himself he is ready. It’s a cool Saturday morning in fall, and the valley is alive with the rumble of pickups.
When the trucks stop, here at the red light at the corner of Broadway and Front Street, drivers gun their engines. Some glare directly into Williams’ eyes.
Williams is a Black man. The drivers are white. All their passengers are white. Williams returns their gaze with equal ferocity. He tells himself he is ready. He is not. His back faces the Susquehanna River. His car is parked a block away. If these white men jump from their truck, fists or pistols raised, Williams has nowhere to run.
The light turns green. Engine roar blasts the river. Williams follows each truck with his eyes until it’s gone.
“I always knew racism was here. But it was quiet,” said Williams, 24, a factory worker and a corporal in the Pennsylvania National Guard who grew up in Milton. “Now, in this election, people are more openly racist. The dirty looks, middle fingers, the Confederate flags.”
To Williams, and to many non-white people he knows in central Pennsylvania, this rise in overtly racist behavior is linked inextricably to the reelection campaign of President Donald Trump. In yards up and down the Central Susquehanna Valley, Williams sees Confederate flags and Trump flags flying side by side. People with the most Trump bumper stickers seem the most likely to shout hateful things.
As the presidential election approaches, Williams said, such threats grow more common, more passionate.
“On election day I’m going to be in my house. I’m not going anywhere,” said Williams, known by his nickname K.J. “If these racists are looking to protest, they’ll go to Harrisburg or Philadelphia or D.C. If they’re looking to kill people, this will be the place. They’re gonna come here.”
Experts on American racial history agree. For Black people living in towns like Milton, they say, the threat of white terrorism is the highest it’s been in generations.
“Historically, most acts of racial terror have been enacted in rural communities, small towns or medium-sized cities,” said Khalil Muhammad, a history professor at Harvard University. “The conditions for wide-scale anti-Black violence are today more likely than at any point in the last 50 years.”
‘That’s a powder keg’
Within a month, 230 communities in Pennsylvania organized 400 anti-racism events, said Lara Putnam, a historian at the University of Pittsburgh who studies grassroots movements.
“That is an insane number,” Putnam said. “It’s an order of magnitude larger than the number of places that ever held a Tea Party event.”
Many protests happened in towns where African Americans and other non-white people constitute a tiny minority, surrounded by rural communities with virtually no people of color at all. Those areas are overwhelmingly conservative, said Daniel Mallinson, a political science professor at Penn State Harrisburg. Out of 6 million votes cast in Pennsylvania in 2016, Trump won the state by 42,000.
But in Milton he dominated, carrying the surrounding Northumberland County by 69%. In front yards and country fields, Trump flags and Confederate flags comingle.
“Traditionally when we think of political candidates, we think of yard signs. But a lot of Trump flags went up in 2016, and in a lot of places they didn’t come down. It’s a visual representation of tribalism in our politics,” Mallinson said. “There’s a lot of implicit and explicit racial bias in central Pennsylvania.”
As local critics and defenders of the white establishment grow more engaged, state and national politics raise the stakes. Pennsylvania is the likeliest state in the nation to decide the presidential election, according to FiveThirtyEight, a polling and analytics aggregator. Statewide polls place Democrat Joe Biden ahead of Trump by 7%, the same as Hillary Clinton’s lead in Pennsylvania three weeks before the 2016 election.
Large-scale voting fraud has never been detected in modern American politics. Yet Trump often claims he can lose only if the 2020 election is fraudulent, which stokes fear and anger among his core supporters, experts said.
“They fully expect Trump will win,” said John Kennedy, a political science professor at West Chester University outside Philadelphia. “When they hear the results on election night, that’s a powder keg.”
Trump also appears to encourage the more violent factions of his coalition. The president repeatedly has declined to promise a peaceful transition of power. He defended Kyle Rittenhouse for killing an unarmed protester in Kenosha, Wisconsin. During the first presidential debate, Trump appeared to encourage white terrorists, urging the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” and insisting that “somebody’s got to do something about Antifa and the left.”
Some white people in central Pennsylvania appear to be following the president’s lead.
“Do I worry about right-wing vigilante violence against peaceful protests if people are protesting Trump after the election? Yes,” Putnam said. “It’s happening. And there’s every reason to think more of it will happen.”
In September, Trump proposed designating the KKK and antifa as terrorist organizations. Antifa is not an organization, however, but rather an idea shared by some on the left to aggressively challenge fascists and Nazis, especially during street protests.
“President Trump has unequivocally denounced hate groups by name on numerous occasions but the media refuses to accurately cover it because that would mean the end of a Democrat Party talking point,” said Samantha Zager, a Trump campaign spokesperson. “The Trump campaign will patiently wait for the media to develop the same intense curiosity on these actual threats to our democracy as it has with regard to hypothetical scenarios from the left.”
In July, neo-Nazis rallied in Williamsport, 20 miles north of Milton. In August, a white person fired into a crowd of civil rights marchers in Schellsburg, Pennsylvania, wounding a man in the face. At a recent event for police reform in Watsontown, three miles north of Milton along the West Branch of the Susquehanna River, white counter-protesters yelled that Black people “live off white people.”
Overlooking the protest, on the balcony of the Mansion House restaurant, white men stood armed with assault rifles.
“They looked like snipers,” Williams said. “Trump is the motivator in all of this. He has a huge following here.”
The last time America witnessed such an open embrace between white supremacists and the White House was the administration of Woodrow Wilson, said Muhammad.
“You have to go back 100 years,” Muhammad said. “We have every reason to be extremely vigilant about the possibility for violence over the next several weeks. Anywhere where people are flying Confederate flags are places where people ought to be mindful of where they move in public.”
Racism in the land of Chef Boyardee
The side streets of downtown Milton end in rich river bottomlands where the autumn corn grows 7 feet tall.