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In Texas, most politicians used to worry only about the primaries. Once they won their party’s endorsement, candidates would coast to victory in November. Journalists still refer to Texas as “ruby red,” meaning Republicans rule the roost. That is no longer reality. Texas is barely red, and some argue it’s already purple. For statewide office, general elections now matter greatly.

Small wonder Nancy Pelosi has called Texas “ground zero” for Democratic focus in 2020. Had the Democrats not chosen Milwaukee for their 2020 national convention, they probably would have picked Houston.

And Milwaukee was no accident, either. Wisconsin was a state Democrats took for granted in presidential elections — until 2016. Donald Trump won the state, albeit by less than 1 percentage point. Rest assured, no Democratic candidate will skip campaigning in Wisconsin as Hillary Clinton did.

Democrats looking inland are finding heartland voices that can connect culturally with not only Americans in the middle of the country but blue-collar and rural voters elsewhere. They lack the harsh, berating tone often heard in candidates from the coasts.

What Texas and Wisconsin have in common is a growing aversion to hard-edged conservatism in general and Trump in particular.

We now see Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, advocating for the likes of better public school financing and more money for special education. He’s pushing for improved access to mental health services.

Contrast this kinder approach with the previous legislative session. In 2017, Texas Republicans passed a bill letting law enforcement stop anyone and demand to see proof of a person’s right to be in the country. This was a profoundly dumb insult to Hispanics, who now account for 40 percent of the state’s population. Lawmakers also spent much time on a silly “bathroom bill,” designed to make life more difficult for transgender people.

The lesson of Beto O’Rourke’s near defeat of entrenched Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018 was lost on nobody. Now running for president, the El Paso native is sticking to a sunny message centered on unity — of party, of nation, of the planet. And he all but ignores Trump.

A recent Texas Tribune/University of Texas poll showed Texans narrowly preferring “somebody else” in 2020 over Trump. Among those surveyed, 39 percent said they were “definitely” for Trump, and 45 percent were “definitely” not.

Polls show Texas women taking an especially strong dislike to Trump. And demographic changes bode ill for other Republicans. Texas is home to a rising number of millennials, transplants moving in from liberal corners of the country and, of course, Latinos.

The new Democratic governor of Wisconsin, Tony Evers, doesn’t yell. He doesn’t dish out invective. He doesn’t dwell on grievance. He quietly pushes a muscular liberal agenda in the good-government language of Midwestern progressives. He’s for renewable energy. He’s for decriminalizing recreational marijuana. He would expand Medicaid to poor families under the Affordable Care Act.

Let’s not leave out two other Democratic presidential possibilities — Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg. The daughter of a schoolteacher and a sports writer, Sen. Klobuchar speaks in the Midwestern vernacular familiar to voters in Minnesota. Buttigieg is young (37), a Navy reservist who served in Afghanistan, a Rhodes scholar and mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

If there weren’t something deeply flawed in the way things are going, Buttigieg said recently, “you wouldn’t have had so many people in areas like mine walking into the voting booth with eyes wide-open, with no illusions about this guy’s character, and consciously voting to burn the house down.”

These politicians know what’s gone wrong, but as importantly, they know how to talk about fixing what’s gone wrong. Democrats need their wisdom. They need their voices.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

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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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