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The Fourth of July is the birthday of American exceptionalism – originally, the idea cherished by the nation’s Revolutionary founders that the practice of liberty, equality, and democracy in these United States would kindle hope in a world downtrodden by every form of despotism, hierarchy, and oppression.

Independence Day marked the determination of a new and diverse people to throw off the old yoke of hereditary rule, with all its attendant traditions of social and economic stratification. The founders believed that America would inspire other nations as an ally and friend, rather than dominate them by force of arms or money. They did not regard their weak new republic as intrinsically superior or chosen to rule the world by God – but argued instead that the ideals of popular sovereignty and constitutional freedom represented the natural rights and the future of humanity everywhere.

So July 4 is a holiday whose meaning still resonates, despite centuries of contradictory history and circumstance. And it ought to be a day for remembering, as I’ve long argued, that liberalism is as patriotic as apple pie.

But it is also worth noting that the form of American exceptionalism most loudly promoted today is encrusted with unwholesome propaganda. As articulated by the great thinkers of the Republican right, from George W. Bush to Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, it is transformed into an aggressive nationalism, a disdain for world opinion, and an ostentatious piety that would have repelled the intellectual leaders of the founding generation.

Republican braying about American exceptionalism sounds especially fraudulent in a season when their party is preparing to nominate an unabashed plutocrat for the presidency.  By corrupting the US political system with dark money and corporate personhood, their Supreme Court justices, their Congressional leaders, and now their presidential candidate would impose an aristocracy of wealth just as corrupt and unaccountable as any that existed in old Europe.

That is why ordinary citizens are now so infuriated by SuperPACs — and so suspicious of Romney’s Wall Street career and his Swiss and Cayman Island accounts. There is nothing exceptional about the political influence of dubiously acquired wealth, which is now commonplace across the world, from China to Russia to Mexico to Washington, D.C.

How is American exceptionalism defined today? It would be hard to find a more potent example of what marks this country as truly great, even now, after the myriad abuses and errors of the past, than the ascent of Barack Obama to the White House. Out of a partisan (and sometimes racial) myopia that has very little to do with the president’s actual flaws, the Republican right is largely unable to concede that simple fact. Instead, its activists and leaders remain preoccupied with demonstrating Obama’s illegitimacy, by slanders about his birth and ideology, for the office that he attained.

If America remains exceptional on this Independence Day, it is thanks to the president and the hopeful citizens who elected him – and very much despite his partisan adversaries, those most pious, most misguided exponents of American exceptionalism.

 

 

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Eric Holder

The failure of major federal voting rights legislation in the Senate has left civil rights advocates saying they are determined to keep fighting—including by suing in battleground states. But the little bipartisan consensus that exists on election reform would, at best, lead to much narrower legislation that is unlikely to address state-level GOP efforts now targeting Democratic blocs.

“This is the loss of a battle, but it is not necessarily the loss of a war, and this war will go on,” Eric Holder, the former U.S. attorney general and Democrat, told MSNBC, saying that he and the Democratic Party will be suing in states where state constitutions protect voting rights. “This fight for voting rights and voter protection and for our democracy will continue.”

“The stakes are too important to give up now,” said Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which for years has operated an Election Day hotline to help people vote. “Our country cannot claim to be free while allowing states to legislate away that freedom at will.”

In recent weeks, as it became clear that the Senate was not going to change its rules to allow the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to pass with a simple majority, there have been efforts by some lawmakers, election policy experts, and civil rights advocates to identify what election reforms could pass the Senate.

“There are several areas… where I think there could be bipartisan consensus,” said David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, in a briefing on January 20. “These areas are all around those guardrails of democracy. They are all about ensuring that however the voters speak that their voice is heard… and cannot be subverted by anyone in the post-election process.”

Becker cited updating the 1887 Electoral Count Act, which addressed the process where state-based slates of presidential electors are accepted by Congress. (In recent weeks, new evidence has surfaced showing that Donald Trump’s supporters tried to present Congress with forged certificates as part of an effort to disrupt ratifying the results on January 6, 2021.) Updating that law could also include clarifying which state officials have final authority in elections and setting out clear timetables for challenging election results in federal court after Election Day.

Five centrist Washington-based think tanks issued a report on January 20, Prioritizing Achievable Federal Election Reform, which suggested federal legislation could codify practices now used by nearly three-quarters of the states. Those include requiring voters to present ID, offering at least a week of early voting, allowing all voters to request a mailed-out ballot, and allowing states to start processing returned absentee ballots a week before Election Day.

But the report, which heavily drew on a task force of 29 state and local election officials from 20 states convened by Washington’s Bipartisan Policy Center, was notable in what it did not include, such as restoring the major enforcement section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was removed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013. It did not mention the Electoral Count Act nor growing threats to election officials from Trump supporters.

“This won’t satisfy all supporters of the Freedom to Vote Act, but this is a plausible & serious package of reforms to make elections more accessible and secure that could attract bipartisan support,” tweeted Charles Stewart III, a political scientist and director of the MIT Election Data and Science Lab. “A good starting point.”

The reason the centrist recommendations won’t satisfy civil rights advocates is that many of the most troubling developments since the 2020 election would likely remain.

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Former president Donald Trump

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(Reuters) -The prosecutor for Georgia's biggest county on Thursday requested a special grand jury with subpoena power to aid her investigation into then-President Donald Trump's efforts to influence the U.S. state's 2020 election results.

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