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As Democrats lick their wounds from last week’s electoral bloodbath, political analysts are poring over exit data to discern the message in the Republicans’ resounding victory. Are voters unhappy with President Obama? Clearly.

But the underlying dissatisfaction abroad in the land centers around the state of the economy, which hasn’t recovered a broad prosperity that reaches into the homes and bank accounts of average Americans.

According to a Wall Street Journal exit poll, 45 percent of voters said the economy was their top concern; only 33 percent of those polled said it is getting better. A Fox News exit poll found that 70 percent of voters rate the economy as either “not good” or “poor.”

But if you think the election will finally force official Washington to buckle down and concentrate on creating jobs that pay a decent wage, think again. The political system is too broken for that to happen.

And that’s a big problem for a country whose citizens don’t all share a common heritage — a religion or a race or even a native tongue. The one thing that binds us, that has kept the country more or less united, is the promise of a broad and shared prosperity. If we can’t solve the problem of growing income inequality and restore the foundation for the middle class, the ties that bind us together will grow more frayed. Eventually, they’ll break.

Let’s acknowledge, though, that fixing the economy — upended by globalization and the technological revolution — is not an easy thing to do. It will take time and political innovation, fortitude and political cooperation.

Have you seen any of that lately?

To start, many elected officials don’t understand the nature of the problem. They reach back into playbooks that date to 1985, figuring that whatever worked then would work now. It won’t. Much as the Industrial Revolution broke down the architecture of the agrarian economy 200 or so years ago, the forces at work now are blowing away the foundations of the manufacturing age.

Yet, Republicans still insist that tax cuts will get the country back on its feet. They keep up that mantra, despite reams of real-world evidence to the contrary, because it serves their rich masters, such as the Koch brothers.

What evidence? Just take a look at the state of Georgia, which has one of the lowest rates of taxation in the country and the highest unemployment rate, 7.9 percent. By contrast, Massachusetts — which the GOP reviles as “Taxachusetts” — has an unemployment rate of 6.0, a tick above the national average of 5.9 percent.

Democrats, for their part, have focused much of their energy on an increase in the federal minimum wage, a pay hike that would certainly help a lot of workers. But it would hardly narrow the growing gap between the haves and have-nots — a chasm seen across the Western world as the highly educated claim a bigger portion of the pie.

President Obama, at least, has the perspective to see the broader trends that have rocked America back on its heels. The Great Recession tore through the country like a tornado, but its misery only laid bare a chasm that has been growing since the 1970s — the income gap. While workers with high school diplomas could once count on manufacturing jobs, those factories have largely shut down, fleeing to lower-cost countries. Technology has also taken a toll, replacing factory workers with robots and bank tellers with ATMs.

As the president notes, part of the fix lies in a better-educated work force. He has pushed for more accountability for teachers at the primary and secondary levels, as well as higher educational standards. But right-wing Republicans view the Common Core, which would raise academic aspirations, as a socialist conspiracy.

President Obama has also prodded Congress to set aside billions for infrastructure repairs, which would generate hundreds of thousands of jobs and create a platform for economic growth. But the GOP has resisted, partly because a revived economy would benefit the president and his political party.

The midterm elections didn’t change that dynamic. Instead, the results reinforced a dysfunctional political system.

(Cynthia Tucker won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2007. She can be reached at

Photo: SEIU via Flickr

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Mark Meadows

Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows wanted a presidential pardon. He had facilitated key stages of Trump’s attempted 2020 coup, linking the insurrectionists to the highest reaches of the White House and Congress.

But ultimately, Meadows failed to deliver what Trump most wanted, which was convincing others in government to overturn the 2020 election. And then his subordinates, White House security staff, thwarted Trump’s plan to march with a mob into the Capitol.

Meadows’ role has become clearer with each January 6 hearing. Earlier hearings traced how his attempted Justice Department takeover failed. The fake Electoral College slates that Meadows had pushed were not accepted by Congress. The calls by Trump to state officials that he had orchestrated to “find votes” did not work. Nor could Meadows convince Vice-President Mike Pence to ignore the official Electoral College results and count pro-Trump forgeries.

And as January 6 approached and the insurrection began, new and riveting details emerged about Meadow’s pivotal role at the eye of this storm, according to testimony on Tuesday by his top White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson.

Meadows had been repeatedly told that threats of violence were real. Yet he repeatedly ignored calls from the Secret Service, Capitol police, White House lawyers and military chiefs to protect the Capitol, Hutchinson told the committee under oath. And then Meadows, or, at least White House staff under him, failed Trump a final time – although in a surprising way.

After Trump told supporters at a January 6 rally that he would walk with them to the Capitol, Meadows’ staff, which oversaw Trump’s transportation, refused to drive him there. Trump was furious. He grabbed at the limousine’s steering wheel. He assaulted the Secret Service deputy, who was in the car, and had told Trump that it was not safe to go, Hutchinson testified.

“He said, ‘I’m the f-ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’” she said, describing what was told to her a short while later by those in the limousine. And Trump blamed Meadows.

“Later in the day, it had been relayed to me via Mark that the president wasn’t happy that Bobby [Engel, the driver] didn’t pull it off for him, and that Mark didn’t work hard enough to get the movement on the books [Trump’s schedule].”

Hutchinson’s testimony was the latest revelations to emerge from hearings that have traced in great detail how Trump and his allies plotted and intended to overturn the election. Her eye-witness account provided an unprecedented view of a raging president.

Hutchinson’s testimony was compared to John Dean, the star witness of the Watergate hearings a half-century ago that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon for his aides’ efforts to spy on and smear Democrats during the 1972 presidential campaign.

“She IS the John Dean of the hearings,” tweeted the Brooking Institution’s Norman Eisen, who has written legal analyses on prosecuting Trump. “Trump fighting with his security, throwing plates at the wall, but above all the WH knowing that violence was coming on 1/6. The plates & the fighting are not crimes, but they will color the prosecution devastatingly.”

Meadows’ presence has hovered over the coup plot and insurrection. Though he has refused to testify before the January 6 committee, his pivotal role increasingly has come into view.

Under oath, Hutchinson described links between Meadows and communication channels to the armed mob that had assembled. She was backstage at the Trump’s midday January 6 rally and described Trump’s anger that the crowd was not big enough. The Secret Service told him that many people were armed and did not want to go through security and give up their weapons.

Trump, she recounted, said “something to the effect of, ‘I don’t f-ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the mags [metal detectors] away. Let the people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.

As the day progressed and the Capitol was breached, Hutchison described the scene at the White House from her cubicle outside the Oval Office. She repeatedly went into Meadows’ office, where he had isolated himself. When Secret Service officials urged her to get Meadows to urge Trump to tell his supporters to stand down and leave, he sat listless.

“He [Meadows] needs to snap out of it,” she said that she told others who pressed her to get Meadows to act. Later, she heard Meadows repeatedly tell other White House officials that Trump “doesn’t think they [insurrectionists] are doing anything wrong.” Trump said Pence deserved to be hung as a traitor, she said.

Immediately after January 6, Hutchinson said that Trump’s cabinet discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove a sitting president but did not do so. She also said that Meadows sought a pardon for his January 6-related actions.

Today, Meadows is championing many of the same election falsehoods that he pushed for Trump as a senior partner at the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), a right-wing think tank whose 2021 annual report boasts of “changing the way conservatives fight.”

His colleagues include Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who pushed for Trump to use every means to overturn the election and leads CPI’s “election integrity network,” and other Republicans who have been attacking elections as illegitimate where their candidates lose.

Hutchinson’s testimony may impede Meadows’ future political role, as it exposes him to possible criminal prosecution. But the election-denying movement that he nurtured has not gone away. CPI said it is targeting elections in national battleground states for 2022’s midterms, including Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Trump did not give Meadows a pardon. But in July 2021, Trump’s “Save America” PAC gave CPI $1 million.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

Tina Peters

YouTube Screenshot

A right-wing conspiracy theorist who was indicted in March on criminal charges of tampering with voting machines to try to prove former President Donald Trump's lies of a stolen 2020 presidential election on Tuesday lost the Republican primary to run for secretary of state of Colorado, the person who oversees its elections.

With 95 percent of the vote counted, Tina Peters, the clerk and recorder of Mesa County, Colorado, was in third place, trailing the winner, fellow Republican Pam Anderson, 43.2 percent to 28.3 percent.

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