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Big Oil's Dark Money Outfit Targets Democrats Over Gas Prices

The dark money group American Action Network has launched a multimillion dollar ad campaign against vulnerable House Democrats, dishonestly blaming them for gasoline prices. The ads make no mention of the group's history of accepting oil and gas industry money.

According to a press release on Wednesday, the tax-exempt 501(c)(4) group is spending $2 million on ads against five Democratic incumbents seeking reelection in toss-up districts this November.

The ads against Reps. Marcy Kaptur (OH), Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas (NH), and Frank Mrvan (IN) claim that each is to blame for gasoline prices because they stand with President Joe Biden in opposing unlimited oil and gas drilling.

"This summer the signs are all around us. It was their plan all along," claims the ad against the two New Hampshire representatives, before a clip is shown of President Joe Biden in mid-sentence saying, "... no ability for the oil industry to continue to drill. Period."

The spot urges people to call Kuster and Pappas to tell them to "unleash American energy" and "lower prices."

This out-of-context partial quote comes from a March 2020 Democratic debate, at which Biden said that he would oppose offshore drilling and new drilling leases on public lands.

"Number one, no more subsidies for fossil fuel industry. No more drilling on federal lands. No more drilling, including offshore. No ability for the oil industry to continue to drill, period, ends, number one," he said. CNN has previously debunked claims that that statement indicated a desire to shut down all drilling.

Another new spot by the group attacks Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV) with the same misleading partial Biden quote. It claims, "Now gas costs $5 a gallon ... but Dina Titus wanted it to cost more," before playing clip of her saying, "Well, you've got to raise the gas tax."

Titus made the comment in a Feb. 21, 2020, podcast interview as part of a discussion about how to address infrastructure challenges facing the Highway Trust Fund, a federal gas tax-funded source of money for highway construction and mass transit. At the time, gasoline cost less than $2.50 a gallon on average.

She has since signed on a co-sponsor of a bill to temporarily suspend the federal gas tax entirely given the current national price spike.

Though the group blames current prices on the lack of domestic drilling under Biden, experts agree that this is not a major factor.

The cost of gasoline began to rise under former President Donald Trump in 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic reduced supply and the reopening of the economy boosted demand. It then went up much more this year following Russia's invasion of Ukraine and Congress' nearly unanimous decision to suspend Russian oil and gas imports in response.

Democratic lawmakers and consumer groups have also blamed some of the increase on price gouging and greed on the part of oil and gas companies.

The American Action Network was founded in 2010 and is chaired by former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN), who has been a registered lobbyist for Saudi Arabia in recent year. It has spent millions of dollars in dark money on attacking Democrats, supporting Republicans, and opposing fossil fuel regulations.

While it does not disclose its donors, in the ads or elsewhere, public records show that American Action Network and its affiliated American Action Forum think tank have received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the American Petroleum Institute, the trade group for the oil and gas industry, and tens of thousands more from the American Natural Gas Alliance.

A spokesperson for the American Action Network did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

I Hate Electoral Politics — But I’m Organizing Voters Every Day Until Next November

How far are we? Who really knows? Let’s just say that we’re somewhere significantly down the road to extremity, all-American style. With a hung (and wrung-out) Congress and a lame (and aged) president, our tripartite government is looking ever less “tri” and ever more “part.” And it increasingly seems that the part being emphasized is a Supreme Court that should perhaps be renamed the Extreme Court. Only recently, it issued a series of Trumpist rulings that, from green-lighting the carrying of concealed weaponry to suppressing abortion to keeping climate change on track, rivaled in their extremity the 1857 Dred Scott ruling’s endorsement of slavery that helped launch the Civil War.

And that may just be the beginning. In their next term, for instance, the six justices of the Extreme Court could turn directly to that “tri” and try to whittle it down further. In particular, they may endorse what’s called the independent state legislature doctrine, an extremist theory that, according to the New York Times, “would give state legislatures independent power, not subject to review by state courts, to set election rules at odds with state constitutions, and to draw congressional maps warped by partisan gerrymandering.” And since, at this point, a significant majority of state legislatures are controlled by Republicans the possibility of gerrymandering the political map into a forever-winning extremist government seems all too imaginable.

So hold onto your hats (and guns) folks — we’ve already passed through the diciest post-election season in memory. (Sedition, you bet!) And we could be heading toward an all-American, all-Trumpist Extreme Court and Republican Party version of something akin to fascism.

With that in mind, could there be anything more important than getting out the vote in elections of 2022 and 2024? I doubt it. So, thank you TomDispatch regular Rebecca Gordon for heading back to Nevada to lend a hand. We should all, whatever our doubts, take her as an example of what has to be done to prevent the Extremes from taking this land from so many of the rest of us. Tom

Recently, I told my friend Mimi that, only weeks from now, I was returning to Reno to help UNITE-HERE, the hospitality industry union, in the potentially nightmarish 2022 election. “Even though,” I added, “I hate electoral politics.”

She just laughed.

“What’s so funny?” I asked.

“You’ve been saying that as long as I’ve known you,” she replied with a grin.

How right she was. And “as long as I’ve known you” has been a pretty long time. We met more than a quarter of a century ago when my partner and I hired her as the first organizer in a field campaign to defeat Proposition 209. That ballot initiative was one of a series pandering to the racial anxieties of white Californians that swept through the state in the 1990s. The first of them was Prop 187, outlawing the provision of government services, including health care and education, to undocumented immigrants. In 1994, Californians approved that initiative by a 59% to 41% vote. A federal court, however, found most of its provisions unconstitutional and it never went into effect.

We weren’t so lucky with Proposition 209, which, in 1996, outlawed affirmative-action programs statewide at any level of government or public service. Its effects reverberate to this day, not least at the prestigious University of California’s many campuses.

A study commissioned 25 years later by its Office of the President revealed that “Prop 209 caused a decline in systemwide URG enrollment by at least twelve percent.” URGs are the report’s shorthand for “underrepresented groups” — in other words, Latinos, Blacks, and Native Americans. Unfortunately, Proposition 209’s impact on the racial makeup of the university system’s students has persisted for decades and, as that report observed, “led URG applicants to cascade out of UC into measurably less-advantageous universities.” Because of UC’s importance in California’s labor market, “this caused a decline in the total number of high-earning ($100,000) early-30s African American and Hispanic/Latinx Californians by at least three percent.”

Yes, we lost the Prop 209 election, but the organization we helped start back in 1995, Californians for Justice, still flourishes. Led by people of color, it’s become a powerful statewide advocate for racial justice in public education with a number of electoral and legislative victories to its name.

Shortcomings And The Short Run

How do I hate thee, electoral organizing? Let me count the ways. First, such work requires that political activists like me go wide, but almost never deep. It forces us to treat voters like so many items to be checked off a list, not as political actors in their own right. Under intense time pressure, your job is to try to reach as many people as possible, immediately discarding those who clearly aren’t on your side and, in some cases, even actively discouraging them from voting. In the long run, treating elections this way can weaken the connection between citizens and their government by reducing all the forms of democratic participation to a single action, a vote. Such political work rarely builds organized power that lasts beyond Election Day.

In addition, electoral campaigns sometimes involve lying not just to voters, but even to your own canvassers (not to speak of yourself) about whether you can win or not. In bad campaigns — and I’ve seen a couple of them — everyone lies about the numbers: canvassers about how many doors they’ve knocked on; local field directors about what their canvassers have actually done; and so on up the chain of command to the campaign director. In good campaigns, this doesn’t happen, but those may not, I suspect, be in the majority. And lying, of course, can become a terrible habit for anyone hoping to construct a strong organization, not to mention a better world.

Lying, as the philosopher Immanuel Kant argued, is a way of treating people as if they were merely things to be used. Electoral campaigns can often tempt organizers to take just such an instrumental approach to others, assuming voters and campaign workers have value only to the extent that they can help you win. Such an approach, however efficient in the short run, doesn’t build solidarity or democratic power for the long haul. Sometimes, of course, the threat is so great — as was true when it came to the possible reelection of Donald Trump in 2020 — that the short run simply matters more.

Another problem with elections? Campaigns so often involve convincing people to do something they’ve come to think of as a waste of time, namely, going to the polls. A 2018 senatorial race I worked on, for example, focused on our candidate’s belief in the importance of raising the minimum wage. And yes, we won that election, but four years later, the federal minimum wage is still stubbornly stuck at $7.25 an hour, though not, of course, through any fault of our candidate. Still, the voters who didn’t think electing Nevada Senator Jacky Rosen would improve their pay weren’t wrong.

On the other hand, the governor we helped elect that same year (and for whose reelection I’ll be working again soon) did come through for working Nevadans by, for example, signing legislation that guarantees a worker’s right to be recalled before anyone new is hired when a workplace reopens after a Covid shutdown.

You’ll hear some left-wing intellectuals and many working people who are, in the words of the old saying, “too broke to pay attention,” claim that elections don’t change anything. But such a view grows ever harder to countenance in a world where a Supreme Court disastrously reshaped by Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell is hell-bent on reshaping nearly the last century of American political life. It’s true that overturning Roe v. Wade doesn’t affect my body directly. I’m too old to need another abortion. Still, I’m just as angry as I was in 2016 at people who couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Hillary Clinton because she wasn’t Bernie Sanders. As I told such acquaintances at the time, “Yes, we’ll hate her and we’ll have to spend the next four years fighting her, but on the other hand, SUPREME COURT, SUPREME COURT, SUPREME COURT!”

Okay, maybe that wasn’t exactly the most elegant of arguments, but it was accurate, as anyone will tell you who’d like to avoid getting shot by a random heat-packing pedestrian, buried under the collapsing wall between church and state, or burned out in yet another climate-change-induced conflagration.

If Voting Changed Anything…

Back in 1996, as Election Day approached, Californians for Justice had expanded from two offices — in Oakland and Long Beach — to 11 around the state. We were paying a staff of 45 and expanding (while my partner and I lay awake many nights wondering how we’d make payroll at the end of the week). We were ready for our get-out-the-vote push.

Just before the election, one of the three organizations that had given us seed money published its monthly newsletter. The cover featured a photo of a brick wall spray-painted with the slogan: “If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal.” Great, just what we needed!

It’s not as if I didn’t agree, at least in part, with the sentiment. Certainly, when it comes to foreign policy and the projection of military force globally, there has been little difference between the two mainstream political parties. Since the end of World War II, Democrats and Republicans have cooperated in a remarkably congenial way when it comes to this country’s disastrous empire-building project, while financially rewarding the military-industrial complex, year after year, in a grandiose fashion.

Even in the Proposition 209 campaign, my interest lay more in building long-term political power for California communities of color than in a vote I already knew we would lose. Still, I felt then and feel today that there’s something deeply wrong with the flippant response of some progressives that elections aren’t worth bothering about. I’d grown up in a time when, in the Jim Crow South, voting was still largely illegal for Blacks and people had actually died fighting for their right to vote. Decades earlier, some of my feminist forebears had been tortured while campaigning for votes for women.

Making Voting Illegal Again

In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, explicitly outlawing any law or regulation that “results in the denial or abridgement of the right of any citizen to vote on account of race or color.” Its specific provisions required states or counties with a history of voter suppression to receive “pre-clearance” from the attorney general or the District Court for the District of Columbia for any further changes in election laws or practices. Many experts considered this provision the heart of that Act.

Then, in 2013, in Shelby County v. Holder, a Supreme Court largely shaped by Republican presidents tore that heart right out. Essentially, the court ruled that, because those once excluded from voting could now do so, such jurisdictions no longer needed preclearance to change their voting laws and regulations. In other words, because it was working, it should be set aside.

Not surprisingly, some states moved immediately to restrict access to voting rights. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, “within 24 hours of the ruling, Texas announced that it would implement a strict photo ID law. Two other states, Mississippi and Alabama, also began to enforce photo ID laws that had previously been barred because of federal preclearance.” Within two months, North Carolina passed what that center called “a far-reaching and pernicious voting bill” which:

“instituted a strict photo ID requirement; curtailed early voting; eliminated same day registration; restricted preregistration; ended annual voter registration drives; and eliminated the authority of county boards of elections to keep polls open for an additional hour.”

Fortunately, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the North Carolina law in 2016, and surprisingly the Supreme Court let that ruling stand.

But as it turned out, the Supremes weren’t done with the Voting Rights Act. In 2021, the present Trumpian version of the court issued a ruling in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee upholding Arizona’s right to pass laws requiring people to vote only in precincts where they live, while prohibiting anyone who wasn’t a relative of the voter from hand-delivering mail-in ballots to the polls. The court held that, even though in practice such measures would have a disproportionate effect on non-white voters, as long as a law was technically the same for all voters, it didn’t matter that, in practice, it would become harder for some groups to vote.

Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito declared that states have a different and more important interest in such voting restrictions: preventing voter fraud. In other words — at least in the minds of two-thirds of the present Supreme Court — some version of Donald Trump’s big lie about rigged elections and voter fraud has successfully replaced racist voter suppression as the primary future danger to free and fair elections.

Maybe elections do change something. Otherwise, why, in the wake of the 2020 elections, would “they” (including Republican-controlled state legislatures across significant parts of the country) be so intent on making it ever harder for certain people to vote? And if you think that’s bad, wait until the Supremes rule next year on the fringe legal theory of an “independent state legislature.” We may well see the court decide that a state’s legislature can legally overrule the popular vote in a federal election — just in time for the 2024 presidential race.

The Future Awaits Us

A couple of times a week I talk by phone with another friend. We began doing this at the height of George W. Bush’s and Dick Cheney’s vicious “war on terror.” We’d console each other when it came to the horrors of that conflict, including the illegal invasion of Iraq, the deaths and torture of Iraqi and Afghan civilians, and the seemingly endless expansion of American imperial meddling. We’re still doing it. Somehow, every time we talk, it seems as if the world has travelled one more mile on its way to hell in a hand-basket.

Both of us have spent our lives trying, in our own modest fashion, to gum up the works of capitalism, militarism, and authoritarian government. To say that we’ve been less than successful would certainly be understating things. Still, we do keep at it, while discussing what in the world we can still do.

At this point in my life and my country’s slide into authoritarian misery, I often find it hard even to imagine what would be useful. Faced with such political disorientation, I fall back on a core conviction that, when the way forward is unclear, the best thing we can do is give people the experience of achieving in concert what they could never achieve by themselves. Sometimes, the product of an organizing drive is indeed victory. Even when it isn’t though, helping create a group capable of reading a political situation and getting things done, while having one another’s backs, is also a kind of victory.

That’s why, this election season, my partner and I are returning to Reno to join hotel housekeepers, cooks, and casino workers trying to ensure the reelection of two Democrats, Senator Catherine Cortez Masto and Governor Steve Sisolak, in a state where the margin of Democratic Party victories hasn’t grown since 2012.

From our previous experience, we know one thing: we’ll be working in a well-run campaign that won’t waste anyone’s time and has its eye on the future. As I wrote about the union’s 2020 presidential campaign for Joe Biden, more than winning a difficult election is at stake. What’s also important is building organized power for working people. In other words, providing the kind of training and leadership development that will send “back to every hotel, restaurant, casino, and airport catering service leaders who can continue to organize and advocate for their working-class sisters and brothers.”

I still hate electoral politics, but you don’t always get to choose the terrain you’re fighting on. Through its machinations at the federal, state, and county level, the Republican Party has been all but screaming its plans to steal the next presidential election. It’s no exaggeration to say that preserving some form of democratic government two years from now depends in part on keeping Republicans from taking over Congress, especially the Senate, this year.

So, it’s back to Reno, where the future awaits us. Let’s hope it’s one we can live with.

Reprinted with permission from Tom Dispatch.

Polls Show Independents Ditching GOP In Midterm Generic Ballot

As the seismic Supreme Court ruling stripping Americans of abortion rights ripples through the country, multiple polls are now seeing movement toward Democrats in the congressional generic ballot contest.

Those polls include a several-point shift picked up in the Civiqs' generic ballot tracking poll as well as the following pre-/post-decision surveys:

Internal data from Civiqs tracking is picking up the same trend, with a net shift of four points toward Democrats from before the ruling gutting Roe v. Wade to after it was released.

Overall, Civiqs now shows Democrats with a five point edge in the generic ballot, 47 percent Democrat to 42 percent Republican. The data is not publicly accessible, but here's the screen shot.

All Registered Voters: If the election for U.S. House of Representatives were held today, would you vote for the:

Notably, Democrats and Republicans are basically stable in the crosstabs, with 93% on both sides favoring candidates from their respective parties. Nearly all the uptick for Democrats comes from independents moving away from Republicans. Before the ruling, independents favored Republicans over Democrats, 42 percent to 34 percent; now, independents favor Republicans by just 1 point, 38 percent to 37 percent.

Independent Voters: If the election for U.S. House of Representatives were held today, would you vote for the:

Independent men moved from favoring Republicans by 19 points, 48 percent to 29 percent, to favoring Republicans by nine points, 43 percent to 34 percent.

Independent men: If the election for U.S. House of Representatives were held today, would you vote for the:

From a 30,000-foot view, what's perhaps most heartening for Democrats is the fact that the generic ballot appears to have reverted to roughly where it was in the spring of 2021, 47 percent D to 42 percent R, when the national political environment was wildly different. At the time, President Joe Biden's approvals were still above water by double digits, vaccines were still being rolled out, the omicron variant hadn't taken hold yet, and U.S. troops hadn't pulled out of Afghanistan yet. It was basically the salad days of Biden's presidency.

Needless to say, things are very different now, with pessimism sweeping the nation. Civiqs tracking now shows 81 percent of registered voters believe the country is heading in the “wrong direction.” But at least for the moment, voters appear to be reaching a somewhat similar conclusion about their preferred party as they had in the early days of the Biden administration—even if for very different reasons.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Barr Deputy's Report Debunked 'Unmasking' Accusations Against Democrats

A newly disclosed U.S. Department of Justice's investigatio has determined that members of former President Barack Obama's administration had no interest in revealing General Michael Flynn's identity “for political purposes or other inappropriate reasons.”

According to BuzzFeed, the report is based on months of investigative research on the so-called “'unmasking' of Flynn" who briefly held the position of U.S. National Security Advisor under former President Donald Trump's administration before he submitted his resignation in February 2017. Flynn's resignation came amid scrutiny and questions about the nature of his conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the US.

Per Buzzfeed: "Republicans later accused officials in the Obama administration of using their positions to reveal anonymized names in classified documents, known in the intelligence community as unmasking, in order to target individuals in Trump’s orbit."

Amid those accusations, former U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr ordered that an investigation be launched to further assess the allegations. The investigation was conducted by John Bash, who at the time, worked as a U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas. Although the investigation was closed back in 2020, the report had not been made public.

Bash has made it clear that his "review has uncovered no evidence that senior Executive Branch officials sought the disclosure of' the identities of US individuals 'in disseminated intelligence reports for political purposes or other inappropriate reasons during the 2016 presidential-election period or the ensuing presidential-transition period.'"

Bash further expounded on his findings in the written statement for his report. Although he admitted that he did not see any justification for a criminal investigation into those suspected of being involved in the "unmasking," he also said "he was 'troubled' by 'how easy it is for political appointees of the incumbent administration to obtain nonpublic information about individuals associated with a presidential campaign or a transition team.'”

“There exists a significant potential for misuse of such information— misuse that could be difficult to detect,” Bash wrote. His report recommended that the intelligence community consider implementing “certain prophylactic safeguards for unmasking requests that relate to presidential campaigns or transitions, including a more demanding substantive standard for granting those requests, special notification requirements, and a centralized approval process.”

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

House Democrats Open Probe Of Gun Manufacturers

Democrats on Capitol Hill have opened an investigation into multiple gun manufacturers whose products have been used to slaughter innocent people in hundreds of mass shootings throughout the United States.

The Washington Post reported that Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-New York), who chairs the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in the House of Representatives, sent letters to the heads of "Daniel Defense, the maker of the DDM4 rifle the gunman used to kill 19 children and two adults at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, and Bushmaster, the maker of the Bushmaster XM-15 semiautomatic rifle that the suspected Buffalo shooter said he illegally modified and then used to kill 10 people at a Tops Friendly Markets store."

The documents, which were shared exclusively with the Post, represent a renewed effort by gun control advocates to hold weapons makers accountable for the carnage they inflict when they fall into the wrong hands.

One of Maloney's principal foci was how Daniel Defense marketed "an AR-15-style rifle" to kids, referencing a picture with “a caption quoting a biblical proverb to 'Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.'"

Maloney wrote to Daniel Defense Chief Executive Officer Marty Daniel that “your company’s own weapons of war have been repeatedly used to carry out horrific and deadly attacks. In addition to this week’s horrific shooting in Texas, four Daniel Defense AR-15-style rifles were found in the hotel room of the 2017 Las Vegas shooter. This shooter used more than a dozen assault weapons to massacre 60 people and wound more than 400 others. One of these Daniel Defense weapons was found with a bump stock and a 100-round magazine.”

Maloney pressed Bushmaster to reveal whether it monitors crimes committed with adulterated Bushmaster XM-15 rifles and if the company has "taken any measures to prevent its firearms from being illegally modified after purchase."

The Bushmaster XM-15 was the firearm of choice in Uvalde, Buffalo, and numerous other massacres, in large part because users can easily swap out magazines and make other personalized aftermarket adjustments.

According to the Post, Maloney has also reached out to Sig Sauer, Smith & Wesson Brands, Inc., and Sturm, Ruger & Company, Inc. for their "gross revenue and profit sales from semiautomatic rifles based on AR-15 style guns, annual spending on advertising and marketing of these rifles, annual spending on federal and state lobbying, and funding provided to the National Rifle Association."

The companies were given until June 2nd to respond.

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

Sinema Scoffs At ‘D.C. Solutions’ To Raging Gun Violence

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), one of two major roadblocks to Democrats passing President Joe Biden’s top agenda items including gun control, just one day after an 18-year old gunman massacred 21 people in Texas (including 19 elementary school children) made clear she does not believe in a federal solution to the gun violence that plagues America.

The United States is the only country in the world with a gun crisis of this magnitude. The leading cause of death for children and teens is now a gun.

Republicans allowed the 1994 federal ban on semi-automatic weapons to expire in 2004. A 2019 study found “Mass-shooting fatalities were 70% less likely to occur during the federal ban period.”

Senator Sinema appeared to disagree with that study in remarks to reporters late Wednesday morning.

“I asked her if she was willing to set aside the filibuster,” Punchbowl News co-founder Jake Sherman reports. “She said she didn’t believe ‘that DC solutions are realistic here.'”

The federal assault weapons ban was a “DC solution.”

Sinema also told Sherman that “despite the fact that there is always heated rhetoric here in DC, I do think there’s an opportunity for us to actually have real conversations and try and do something. I think the conversation across America is very different than it is here.”

Polls show that up to 90 percent of Americans want Congress to pass a background check bill, which the House already has but Senate Republicans refuse to allow. Eliminating the 60-vote threshold in the filibuster might allow that legislation to pass, as it almost did under President Barack Obama, with 54 votes.

“People at home all across America are just, they’re scared,” Sinema added, suggesting that is no reason to make changes to the way the Senate works, or to pass gun control legislation. “They want us to do something.”

Sinema committed to no action other than “to start having conversations again with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to determine whether or not there’s something we can actually do to help increase safety and protect kids across the country.”

The House has already passed multiple bills the Senate could take up and pass — or at least get Senators on the record.

Sen. Sinema’s reluctance to do anything substantive stands in clear contrast to her Arizoan Democratic colleague in the House. Rep. Ruben Gallego, long rumored to be a potential primary opponent when Sinema is up for re-election, on Tuesday night blasted Sinema and others, like “baby killer” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), standing in the way of gun control.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

How Democrats (And Honest Republicans) Can Defeat The Next Coup Attempt

In 1980, because I was an idealistic conservative eager to do my bit for democracy, I volunteered for my local Republican Party as a poll watcher. When polls closed, election officials asked us to gather around as they opened the backs of the machines one by one and tallied the votes. We could all see what was happening, and we all gave our assent that the totals were correct.

It was a glimpse into the ordinary yet extraordinary system we've devised over decades and centuries to ensure that elections are performed honestly and securely. Each state has developed its own procedures, but they're all broadly similar. The results of each polling location are delivered to the precinct and then on to the canvassing board. Election administrators are observed by partisans of both parties, and the results are often counted more than once.

Our voting systems in America have not always been perfect — the most glaring flaw being the disenfranchisement of many African Americans until the mid-20th century — but we corrected that, and over time and in most places, we've conducted free and fair elections every two years.

Today, that stability is at risk.

Across the country, candidates who deny the legitimacy of the 2020 election are seeking office in order to prepare the ground for the next election contest. Pardoned Trump ally Steve Bannon is encouraging MAGAites to run for local posts with authority to count votes. Bannon uses his popular podcast to tout "taking over the Republican party through the precinct committee strategy ... It's about winning elections with the right people — MAGA people. We will have our people in at every level."

At least 23 candidates who deny the outcome of the 2020 election are running for secretary of state in 19 states. Among those are battleground states that Joe Biden won narrowly: Michigan, Nevada, Georgia and Arizona. Trump has endorsed candidates in Georgia, Arizona and Michigan, the only time in history that a former president has bestirred himself over races so far down the ballot. "We're seeing a dangerous trend of election deniers lining up to fill election administration positions across the country," Joanna Lydgate, chief executive of the States United Democracy Center, told The Guardian. States United also tallies 53 election deniers seeking governorships in 25 states, and 13 election deniers running for attorney general in 13 states.

Additionally, death threats and intimidation from MAGA extremists have caused one in five election administrators to say they will leave their posts before 2024. The most common explanation is that too many politicians were attacking "a system that they know is fair and honest" and that the job was too stressful. A February survey of 596 local election officials found that they spanned the political spectrum pretty evenly — 26% identified as Democrats, 30% as Republicans and 44% as independents. A majority said they were worried about attempts to interfere with their work in future elections.

While MAGA types are beavering away, attempting to stack election boards and other posts with election-denying zealots, what are other Americans doing? The clock is ticking.

Democrats are likely to have a tough election in November — not that widespread Republican victories will cause election deniers to reconsider their belief that the 2020 race was stolen. But while Democrats are likely to lose seats in the House and Senate, local elections may not be so lopsided, particularly if the craziness of some of these candidates is highlighted. Kristina Karamo, for example, the Trump-endorsed secretary of state candidate in Michigan, claims that she personally witnessed fraudulent vote-counting in 2020, that Trump won her state (Biden won it by 154,000 votes) and that left-wing anarchists attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Some Republicans, it should not be forgotten, continue to uphold the integrity of elections; a handful of honest Republicans saved the country from a potentially disastrous constitutional crisis in 2020.

If past is prologue, Democrats will probably pour money into unwinnable races over the next few months. Remember Amy McGrath? She was supposed to dethrone Mitch McConnell in Kentucky. Democratic donors gave her $88 million. Remember Jaime Harrison? He was going to defeat Lindsey Graham in South Carolina. Donors shoveled $130 million his way. Harrison lost by a 10-point margin. McGrath lost by nearly 20 points. The list goes on. Beto O'Rourke, anyone? (Republicans do this, too. Just look at the money wasted in Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's district.)

This year, donors are spending millions in an attempt to unseat the execrable Marjorie Taylor Greene. Sigh. Trump won Greene's district with 75% of the vote. This. Won't. Work.

Democrats, independents and sane Republicans should focus instead on the critical local contests that will determine who counts the votes in 2024. Those unsexy races for local positions and administrative posts like secretaries of state could make the difference in 2024 between an election and a coup.

Mona Charen is policy editor of The Bulwark and host of the "Beg to Differ" podcast. Her most recent book is "Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense." To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

New Poll: Overwhelming Support For Roe Is Moving Democratic Voters

Overturning Roe v. Wade is very unpopular, yet another poll confirms. Nearly two out of three people, or 64 percent, told the NPR/PBS Newshour/Marist poll that Roe should not be overturned, including 62 percent of independents. The poll also includes some good news for Democrats.

According to the poll, the prospect of the Supreme Court striking down Roe in the most extreme way is motivating Democratic voters more than Republicans: Sixty-six percent of Democrats say it makes them more likely to vote in November compared with 40 percent of Republicans. That echoes a recent NBC poll finding a larger rise in enthusiasm about voting among Democrats than Republicans.

The NPR/PBS/Marist poll has another piece of good news for Democrats: They got an eight-point boost on the generic House ballot. Last month, 47 percent of respondents said they planned to vote for a Republican, while 44 percent said they planned to vote for a Democrat. This month, Democrats have the lead, 47 percent to 42 percent. President Joe Biden’s approval rating, though, slipped to 39 percent.

Confidence in the Supreme Court also dropped to 40 percent — a 17-point plunge since the last time Marist asked that question in 2018.

While people don’t want to see Roe overturned, answers vary on what abortion laws they do think should exist. Some interesting points: 82 percent support abortion at any time during pregnancy to protect the life or health of the pregnant person, and 63 percent say the same about cases of rape or incest. When it comes to the various ways Republicans have been pushing to ban abortion, 80 percent don’t want to see private citizens allowed to sue abortion providers and other people who “aid or abet” abortions; 75 percent don’t want to see abortion criminalized, with fines or prison time for doctors; and 69 percent oppose six-week bans tied to fetal cardiac activity. A 63 percent majority do support states with legal abortion providing safe haven for people from states with bans.

The Supreme Court does not care what voters want, though, and within the current system, Democrats don’t have much recourse. Expanding the court, ensuring that the next several times new justices are appointed it’s by Democratic presidents (something the current court will make more difficult), and passing strong laws protecting and expanding abortion rights in states controlled by Democrats are about it, short of secession. And Democrats must fight hard to do those things, even if they will fail at first, even if it won’t be enough at first. Republicans worked relentlessly for a generation to achieve this result. Democrats may have to do the same to reverse it.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.