Saturday Report 10/8/22: How will OPEC’s 2-million-barrel-a-day production cut hit America?
The Best of the Rest of the News
— What weakens a republic enough to lead to a civil war or major change of governmental system away from democracy? Over the past few years, and particularly in past months as the trials of January 6th traitors begin, there’s been a huge upsurge in speculation about civil war here in America. It’s usually accompanied by questions about what could have led us to this moment, so I wanted to lay out for you a super-compressed version of the information in my books on the Supreme Court and Oligarchy that directly addresses these issues. Until they’re each addressed in a substantial and meaningful way, our nation’s democracy continues to be at considerable risk of collapse into fascism or oligarchy close to it like the old Confederacy:
First, there’s rulings by Republican members of the Supreme Court in Buckley, Bellotti, and Citizens United that when rich people or corporations buy politicians that’s not bribery or corruption but, they imposed on America, simply First Amendment-protected “free speech.” It was a naked legalization and endorsement of government of, by, and for the wealthy rather than of, by, and for We the People (to paraphrase Jefferson and Lincoln). All four Democratic nominees to the Court objected vehemently to Citizens United, but the five Republicans then on the Court ruled to change American elections regardless. No other developed nation in the world allows this: the closest any major countries come to legally allowing their rich people to buy elections are Russia and Hungary, which both have similar doctrines that have cemented the political power of their oligarchs. When Congress tried to partially overturn Citizens United with the For The People Act (HR1) this year, it passed the House but every single Republican and two Democratic senators (Manchin & Sinema) were spiffed with millions of dollars from morbidly rich activists and large corporations to block it, and it died.
Second, America uniquely has several anti-democratic systems built into our constitution that make it harder for “We, the People” to make our voices heard. The Senate is the worst. Because every state has two senators, and Republicans have invested heavily in talk radio and TV stations in Red states where it’s cheaper to buy media assets, Republicans in today’s 50/50 Senate represent fully 41 million fewer Americans than do Democrats in the Senate. Add to this the Electoral College, which has put two Republicans in the White House who both lost national elections (Bush lost in 2000 by a half-million votes; Trump lost in 2016 by 3 million votes) just in the past 20 years, and we have a system where losers and representatives of a minority of Americans have near total power and veto control over any meaningful changes to our governmental systems that may defend democracy. The immediate solution to this problem, while not complete, is to add Washington DC and Puerto Rico as states.
Third, the Trump administration putting gutless toadies like Christopher Wray and Bill Barr into the Justice Department shows how easily corrupted our federal bureaucracy had become. We should have realized this when Barr, in 1992, helped GHW Bush engineer the coverup of Reagan’s Iran/Contra crimes, but other than a few news stories that lasted a week or so, Barr’s and Bush’s corruption went largely ignored. He then covered up Trump’s felony crimes of obstruction of justice and attempted collusion with a foreign power identified by the Muller investigation. Beyond corrupting the Post Office in a way that a federal judge ruled this week was specifically done by DeJoy to screw with the election, it increasingly looks like Trump also corrupted the Secret Service (and it’s still being covered up) and possibly parts of the FBI, ICE, and the Border Patrol in an attempt to create his own personal praetorian guard on the government’s dime.
Fourth, our election systems are overseen by partisan actors. A majority of Republicans running for office — including many of those running for positions like Secretary of State that oversee elections — are 2020 election deniers and many have openly said that they’ll throw out or ignore Democratic votes. In multiple Republican-controlled states literally millions of mostly Black, low-income, and young voters are being purged from voting rolls right now just because Republicans know they can get away with it — and have for years — without consequences. Canada — like virtually every other developed democracy in the world — has an independent elections commission that standardizes and runs elections all across the nation, so every province has the same rules, the same style of ballot, and absolute consistency
with voters’ registrations. Just like your Social Security number with the IRS, or your ZIP Code with the Post Office, we could standardize elections this way if the Supreme Court doesn’t buy into the Independent State Legislature theory in the Moore v Harper case coming up.
— DeSantis does a master class in how to create hatred and distrust of the media and crank up violence against your political opponents. Like heat fuels hurricanes, hate is the fuel that animates fascism and political violence. The most important tool is “otherizing” your political opposition and the media, so people view them as both evil and less than human because, as dictators always tell their people about others, “They don’t care about you.” In this clip you can see how a professional uses a disaster to crank up hate and violence among his followers:
— The beginning of the end of the drug wars! When Richard Nixon declared his “War on Drugs,” he had a specific target in mind: Democratic voters and civil rights activists. As John Erlichman, Nixon’s Domestic Policy Advisor, told reporter Dan Baum:
“The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and Black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or Black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and Blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities.
“We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.” [emphasis added]
There’s a 200-year history here that ties to Nixon’s War on Drugs. Former slave states had laws on the books dating back to the Confederacy that made it illegal for former felons to vote (in part, to keep down pesky poor white rabble-rousers, which was a frequent problem for Southern oligarchs 1830-1860) and the result is that in Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wyoming one-in-seven Black citizens have lost their right to vote because of a conviction. Black people are 3.6 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people, even though usage rates are about the same for both groups. See Erlichman above. It was all going according to plan, so long as it was easy to hang a felony rap on voters Republicans didn’t like. Now President Biden has put a dent in this 50-year-long GOP war on Black people and progressive protestors by issuing a pardon for all federal marijuana possession charges and asking states’ attorneys general and governors to do the same. My bet is that most Democratic-controlled states will do so, but most Red states will keep everything as it is, since it works so well to continue to gut Black and youth voting power.
— Manufacturing is what creates “the wealth of nations” (as Adam Smith taught us) and, increasingly, Democrats in Congress get it. Congressman Ro Khanna has laid out a new vision to revive American manufacturing, grounded in Alexander Hamilton’s 11-point plan that turned this country into the world’s largest industrial power. Senators Warren, Sanders, Brown and others have been singing a similar song for some time (as was Khanna. This is becoming closer and closer to conventional wisdom — the Overton window has really shifted in the past 5 years — and is thus really good news for the future of the American working class and our nation’s economic and military security.
— It’s a safe bet that the Supreme Court is about to further kneecap democracy in America. In the Moore v Harper case, the Supreme Court will decide whether state legislatures can gerrymander to their hearts’ content and then even go so far as to throw out the votes of their citizens when they don’t like the result of a presidential election. The case turns on the so-called “Independent State Legislature” theory that was the basis of John Eastman’s advice to Trump that Republican-controlled swing states could ignore Biden winning the election in their states and cast their Electoral College votes for Trump instead. As bizarre as this sounds, there’s a very, very good chance this is exactly how the corrupt Republican majority on the Court will rule, setting up a very different 2024 election where it may be impossible for a Democrat, regardless of how many votes s/he gets, to become president. I wrote about this back on July 1st of this year, but now that the Court has begun hearing cases it’s worth repeating: this could provoke a crisis for American democracy from which we may not recover.
— How will OPEC’s 2-million-barrel-a-day production cut hit America? While it’s a certainty that this will increase gas prices, kneecapping Biden and Democrats, there are still a few aces the administration has up its sleeve. From the early 1970s until 2015 it was illegal to export oil produced in America as I wrote yesterday; in the 7 years since then we’ve gone from exporting 0% of our oil to fully 30%, along with an additional 800,000+ barrels of refined gasoline every day. These have made hundreds of billions in profits for the fossil fuel industry, but with enough political will the Biden administration may be able to stop these exports. Doing that (and dialing back on the embargo with Venezuela) will increase American security and energy independence along with cutting gas prices. Will they do it? Stay tuned…
— Will Putin use nukes in Ukraine and, if he does, what will the result be? Putin’s war in Ukraine is going poorly and his soldiers are deserting in record numbers — a situation that puts Putin’s political life in very real danger. There are unconfirmed reports in the press that Putin has already decided he wants to use a tactical, low-yield nuclear weapon against Ukraine, but so far has been constrained by a mixture of considerations from prevailing winds (that could blow radiation toward Russia), to getting his troops out of the way, to worries about how America and NATO may respond. The Biden administration has made it clear that a response would be “overwhelming” and, through leaks and out-loud speculation by administration insiders and sources, would probably devastate Russian forces in the region while not resorting to tit-for-tat use of battlefield nukes on our part. Thursday night President Biden told a group of high-end donors in a closed-door session that he thinks Putin’s threats are serious and that we haven’t been this close to “Armageddon” since the October, 1962 Cuban Missile Crises during John F. Kennedy’s administration. Europe’s leaders are taking Putin — and Biden — seriously; we all should.
— Will the crime issue win the House and/or Senate for Republicans? More than a year ago, I started writing with increasing urgency about how crime will be one of the two or three primary issues on which this 2022 and the 2024 elections will turn. I warned Democrats about it a year ago in May, July, and September, and this year on September 26th and 29th. I brought it up on the air with DNC Chair Jaime Harrison months ago. And now here it is. Mitch McConnell’s dark money operation is dropping tens of millions of dollars into Senate races with ads explicitly calling Democrats — particularly Black Democrats Demmings in Florida, Warnock in Georgia, and Barnes in Wisconsin — soft on crime. And it’s working: races where Democrats were favored to win are now toss-ups and there’s still a month to go. Nixon began this with the election of 1968, then Reagan did it, Bush Sr. turned it into an art form with Willie Horton, and Trump doubled down on it against “Mexicans.” Democrats have absolutely no excuse for being caught flat-footed by this last-minute onslaught.
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