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Clarence Lusane, The Nightmare of Republican Voter Suppression

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Elections? What are those?

Our previous president was almost unimaginably deep into voter suppression. After all, a Georgia grand jury has, among other things, been investigating his direct involvement in a wild scheme to create his very own slate of bogus “electors” in that state who would — giant surprise! — vote for The Donald for president, even after he’d been declared the loser of the 2020 election. And that was but one of the states where he and his crew tried to create slates of fake electors who would be (or so they came to believe) recognized as the real thing by Vice President Pence on January 6th.

That, in turn, was but one way in which a Republican Party with an urge for ultimate domination at both the state and federal levels, not to say outright autocracy, has been trying to stack the deck in its favor for years. That was particularly true in states across the country where they held power and focused on suppressing the right of Black voters to go to the polls. As newly elected Georgia Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock put it in his first Senate speech two months after the attempted insurrection of January 6, 2021, “We are witnessing right now a massive and unabashed assault on voting rights unlike anything we’ve ever seen since the Jim Crow era. This is Jim Crow in new clothes.”

I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that most Republican laws to suppress votes were passed, according to the Guardian‘s Ed Pilkington, “in precisely those states that became the focus of Trump’s Stop the Steal campaign to block the peaceful transfer of power after he lost the 2020 presidential election to Joe Biden.” And as a Brennan Center report found in 2022, “Representatives from the whitest districts in the most racially diverse states were the most likely to sponsor anti-voter bills.”

Today, Clarence Lusane, author of the recently published book Twenty Dollars and Change: Harriet Tubman and the Ongoing Fight for Racial Justice and Democracy, a penetrating look at the legacies of slavery and white supremacy in this country, considers what that ongoing record of suppressing the Black vote means as 2023 begins. Tom

The Votes That Weren’t Cast

Racial Justice, Voting Rights, and Authoritarianism

The fundamental right to vote has been a core value of Black politics since the colonial era -- and so has the effort to suppress that vote right up to the present moment. In fact, the history of the suppression of Black voters is a first-rate horror story that as yet shows no sign of ending.

While Democrats and progressives justifiably celebrated the humbling defeat of some of the most notorious election-denying Republican candidates in the 2022 midterms, the GOP campaign to quell and marginalize Black voters has only continued with an all-too-striking vigor. In 2023, attacks on voting rights are melding with the increasingly authoritarian thrust of a Republican Party ever more aligned with far-right extremists and outright white supremacists.

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William Astore, War Racketeers Won’t Reform Themselves

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In case you hadn’t noticed, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists just placed the hands on its Doomsday Clock closer to “midnight” than at any moment since it was created in 1947. Imagine that! At no time since the Cold War of the last century began have those scientific types, including 10 Nobel laureates, felt we were in more danger than… yes, this very second (and I use that word advisedly). We’re talking, in other words, about a proverbial 90 seconds to our possible… is there really any other word for it?…  extinction.

One reason they did so, of course, is the war in Ukraine that shows no sign of ending and all too many signs of expanding. Consider, for instance, the Biden administration’s recent decision to send some of its most advanced M-1 tanks there, leading Germany to agree to dispatch its own Leopard 2 tanks as well. And think of those as just two more notches up in what’s functionally become this country’s ever more heated proxy war with … oops, I almost wrote the Soviet Union, but no, it’s plain old Russia now. And that’s just to begin down a list of potential dangers on this planet, including pandemics and, above all, climate change, itself on an ever — dare I say it — more heated path upward (and given a distinct helping hand by Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine).

At the risk of boring you to death, let me mention one other thing. As we learned last year, in a world of blossoming dangers, there seem to be no limits when it comes to a congressional willingness to pour endless taxpayer dollars into the military-industrial complex. The Pentagon budget that was passed as 2022 ended simply went through the roof, as retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, historian, and TomDispatch regular William Astore reminds us today. And congressional Republicans and Democrats who fight over everything else find remarkable accord on the issue. With a few exceptions, the investment of at least half of our discretionary budget in the military-industrial complex no longer seems to make anyone blink.

Oh wait, let me make an exception for Astore, too. He’s blinked again and again in these years I’ve known him. If only more of us (and of his former military compatriots) would do the same. Tom

Can the Military-Industrial Complex Be Tamed?

Cutting the Pentagon Budget in Half Would Finally Force the Generals to Think

My name is Bill Astore and I’m a card-carrying member of the military-industrial complex (MIC).

Sure, I hung up my military uniform for the last time in 2005. Since 2007, I’ve been writing articles for TomDispatch focused largely on critiquing that same MIC and America’s permanent war economy. I’ve written against this country's wasteful and unwise wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, its costly and disastrous weapons systems, and its undemocratic embrace of warriors and militarism. Nevertheless, I remain a lieutenant colonel, if a retired one. I still have my military ID card, if only to get on bases, and I still tend to say “we” when I talk about my fellow soldiers, Marines, sailors, and airmen (and our “guardians,” too, now that we have a Space Force).

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Karen Greenberg, Gallows Humor in Washington and Brazil

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[Note for TomDispatch Readers: Just a reminder that signed, personalized copies of Joshua Frank’s genuinely unsettling book, Atomic Days: The Untold Story of the Most Toxic Place in America, are still available to any reader donating $125 ($150 if you live outside the United States). The Progressive magazine dubbed his book one of the best of 2022, writing: “Joshua Frank blows the lid off ‘the U.S. government’s gargantuan plutonium operation’ that ‘churned out nearly all of the radioactive fuel used in the country’s nuclear arsenal….’ The award-winning journalist makes a compelling case that Hanford has become ‘the costliest environmental remediation project the world has ever seen, and arguably the most contaminated place on the entire planet…’ As some turn to nuclear power as a supposed solution to the climate emergency, Atomic Days reminds readers of the perils of nuclear waste and its difficult disposal.” Now, check out his recent TomDispatch piece (if you missed it) and then visit TD‘s donation page and do your damnedest! Tom]

Just in case you think that, since January 6, 2021, the trials and tribulations of the American democratic system have been unique or even (to use an all-American word) exceptional, think again. In a recent New York Times column, Max Fisher focused on New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s remarkable announcement of her decision to vacate her post well before the next election. (“I’m leaving, because with such a privileged role comes responsibility — the responsibility to know when you are the right person to lead and also when you are not. I know what this job takes. And I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice. It’s that simple.”) There, the transition proved remarkably straightforward and swift, her party voting in a new prime minister almost instantly. As Fisher points out, while Ardern’s comments were out of the ordinary, among parliamentary democracies globally, this was not otherwise an atypical event. The most stable democracies have, in fact, proved to be parliamentary ones of the sort Ardern has led for the last five-and-a-half years, “where executive power is generated by legislative majorities and depends on such majorities for survival.”

On the other hand, presidential democracies of the American sort have had a far more daunting tendency to collapse in coups or other horrors, especially during the transition period between presidencies. Fisher adds, “Donald J. Trump’s efforts to hold onto power after losing the 2020 presidential election may have been shocking and unprecedented for the United States, but they were well in line with the sorts of crises that play out in presidential systems worldwide.”

As if to make that point all too graphically, the world recently watched Brazilians play out their very own version of January 6th, once again in front of the cameras. In both cases, the shaky changeovers were unnervingly insurrectionary in nature, but as TomDispatch regular Karen Greenberg, author of Subtle Tools: The Dismantling of American Democracy from the War on Terror to Donald Trump, suggests today, each of those events had its distinct qualities and striking differences.

And of the two, the American version may have come even closer than the Brazilian one to collapsing a system of government as we know it. (Thank you, Donald!) Given the extremity of the Trumpublicans who only recently (and barely) took over the House of Representatives, don’t for a second think we’re done with this yet. If you don’t believe me, just ask George Santos or Marjorie Taylor Greene about the future that awaits us and, while you’re at it, let Greenberg explain what still remains unnervingly — I just can’t help using the word — exceptional about our version of a coup attempt. Tom

The Real Failure of January 6th

How America’s Insurrectionists Crossed the Rubicon of History

Americans tuning into the television news on January 8th eyed a disturbingly recognizable scene. In an “eerily familiar” moment of “déjà vu,” just two years and two days after the January 6th Capitol insurrection in Washington, D.C., a mob of thousands stormed government buildings in the capital city of another country -- Brazil. In Brasilia, what New York Times columnist Ross Douthat ominously labelled “the first major international imitation of our Capitol riot" seemed to be taking place.

As the optics suggested, there were parallels indeed, underscoring a previously underappreciated fragility in our democratic framework: the period of transition between presidencies.

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