Discover more from Civil Discourse with Joyce Vance
It's Only Tuesday...
(There's a lot going on this week)
Hillary Clinton has a piece in The Atlantic today, which is well worth your time. She starts out by asking “how our democracy became so susceptible to a would-be strongman and demagogue” and writes that the urgent question keeping her up at night with the 2024 election on the horizon is “whether we have done enough to rebuild our defenses or whether our democracy is still highly vulnerable to attack and subversion.”
Clinton turns to Surgeon General Vivek Murthy’s May 2023 Advisory, entitled “Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation,” to draw her conclusions. He talks about loneliness like it’s on a par with smoking and obesity in endangering the health of Americans. Clinton surveys recent research linking loneliness and withdrawal to the collapse of community in American, with people less likely to be involved in church groups, unions, even bowling leagues. She discusses how this lack of engagement manifests itself in greater distrust of government and in institutions like the courts. Where does that lead? To put it simply, people who feel alone disengage from their communities and become vulnerable to a conman-cultist like Trump.
Clinton suggests that there are people who would exploit other lonely, alienated people—and especially young white men—who seemingly have nowhere else to turn:
Long before Bannon ran Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, he was involved in the world of online gaming. He discovered an army of what he later described as “rootless white males,” disconnected from the real world but highly engaged online and often quick to resort to sexist and racist attacks. When Bannon took over the hard-right website Breitbart News, he was determined to turn these socially isolated gamers into the shock troops of the alt-right, pumping them full of conspiracy theories and hate speech. Bannon pursued the same project as a senior executive at Cambridge Analytica, the notorious data-mining and online-influence company largely owned by the right-wing billionaire Robert Mercer. According to a former Cambridge Analytica engineer turned whistleblower, Bannon targeted “incels,” or involuntarily celibate men, because they were easy to manipulate and prone to believing conspiracy theories. “You can activate that army,” Bannon told the Bloomberg journalist Joshua Green. “They come in through Gamergate or whatever and then get turned onto politics and Trump.”
That’s a clearheaded warning about the challenges we still face as we head into 2024. People need something better than Trump’s cult to belong to. The problem is, the cult is easy and simple to get drawn into. It gives its members people to blame for all their problems. Unmoored from responsibility, they can do anything and justify anything, up to and including an attack on the Capitol and the attempted theft of an election.
It goes without saying at this point that Trump persistently projects the worst things he does onto others. How ironic that he used “stop the steal” as an attack against Joe Biden, given that stealing an election was precisely what he himself was doing. It’s not hard to envision someone coaching Donald Trump at some point in his life to avoid getting caught by accusing others of whatever it was that he was doing wrong at that moment. Over the years, Trump has perfected that skill. “Biden crime family.” We’re paying attention, so we understand how important the next election is going to be and how vile the rhetoric is going to become.
We got a taste of that in the Ohio special election that was held today, Tuesday, August 8. It was a major attack on voters’ rights. Ohioans went to the polls to vote on a single issue—an amendment that would make it harder to amend the state constitution. If voters had approved Issue 1, which thankfully, they didn’t, any future amendments to the Ohio Constitution would have needed 60 percent of the vote to pass, rather than the simple majority that is our norm.
This evening, just after 8:30 Eastern Time, we learned the measure failed. Good news for Ohio voters. People showed up to vote “no” against this shameless attack on democracy.
Here’s what was at stake: Supporters of Issue 1 said the measure would protect the Ohio Constitution from special interest groups. “By raising the threshold for constitutional amendments to 60%, the people will ensure amendments have widespread support and tell special interests that our constitution is not up for grabs.…By requiring signatures from voters in every county, special interest groups will no longer be able to cherry pick where they gather signatures.”
Who might those dangerous special interests be? People backing a measure on the November ballot to guarantee a state constitutional right to abortion for pregnant people in Ohio. The amendment that was voted down today would have moved the goalposts and made it harder for that measure to pass by requiring 60 percent of the vote instead of the simple majority that fuels elections in America. That’s not speculation, by the way. In March 2023, Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman (R) claimed that it was worth spending $20 million on the August special election to address abortion.
Ohio voters held the line, like voters have in other states. Abortion bans aren’t the compelling issue for Republican voters that the GOP has assumed they were for so long. The dog may have caught the car it was chasing, but it looks like the car is about to explode, if this election and others are any indication of the role abortion may play in driving voters to the polls in 2024. Democrats need to stake out the territory. Americans overwhelmingly favor letting pregnant people make their own decisions. We don’t need Republican elected officials in our bedrooms.
But the Ohio special election also previewed some of the same nationwide issues we’re going to see cropping up in 2024, compliments of a Supreme Court that has just about completed the work of gutting the Voting Rights Act, permitting tactics like this: "Just five days before Ohio’s special election on Tuesday, Aug. 8, polling locations were changed for tens of thousands of voters in Cuyahoga and Summit counties." The secretary of state said the changes happened because so many Ohio polling places are schools, which were closed for the summer. Five days to find out? In a single-issue August election designed to create a major antidemocratic change in the way Ohio’s political process would work going forward? It’s almost as if Republicans hoped there would be low turnout; that would favor those who sought to use the polls to undo democracy.
We’re lucky Ohio voters changed that narrative. What happened here underscores the importance of always checking your polling place before you go to vote. You shouldn’t have to, but it’s the reality of the times we live in. While you’re at it, look up the dates of your state primaries and put down a calendar reminder to check and make sure your registration status is active 89 days before both the primary and the general election. Voters in some states have shown up to vote only to learn they’ve been removed from active-voter status and have to vote a provisional ballot, which requires that they jump through a lot of time-consuming hoops before their vote gets counted. But you can’t be removed from the voter roles once it’s closer than 90 days to the election, so check and take a screenshot showing you’re an active voter. Otherwise, it’s the risk of death by a thousand cuts: change your polling place, change your registration status. All these measures make it a little more difficult for eligible voters to vote, statistically impacting Democrats. Fight back by preparing early this election season and making sure all of your friends do, too.
The object of all the fervor on the Republican side of the political spectrum, their seemingly anointed candidate, Donald Trump, had a lot going on today. And it’s only Tuesday. We know now that in the insurrection case, we’re headed toward a hearing this Friday on the government’s proposed protective order. Protective orders are pretty routine—defendants agree that they and anyone they share discovery materials with will keep them from being disclosed to the public. This protects witnesses and the integrity of the upcoming trial. It’s bizarre to see such vehement objections to a protective order that is inevitably going to be put in place in a form close to what the government has suggested—this is a standard protective order used by Trump-appointed Judge Carl Nichols in the District of Columbia. It’s almost as if Trump’s lawyers were trying to unnecessarily delay the proceedings, using an insignificant matter to force the court to expend more time before pretrial preparation can get underway. Actually, that’s exactly what’s going on.
Trump’s strategy is delay. Three days here, four days there, and pretty soon you’re past the election. This sort of bad-faith argumentation will only get them so far. At some point, Judge Tanya Chutkan is going to have to decide where her line in the sand is and what she’s going to do to convey to Trump who’s running the show now. If she doesn’t, he’ll continue to make a mockery of the criminal justice system, and she doesn’t give off the aura of a judge who’s okay with that. For now, she has set her hearing for Friday. She told the lawyers to give her a couple of possible times between tomorrow and Friday, and Trump’s lawyers, predictably, responded with Monday. We’ll learn her reaction on Friday.
But here’s the thing. Trump’s lawyers are all about securing their client’s right to spin the information he’s receiving in discovery to present himself in the best light. They want to be able to use recordings of witnesses—can you imagine Trump taking one line out of context and playing it over and over to damage a witness or “prove” his innocence? Trump wants to tell America about the evidence. On Sunday, his lawyer John Lauro went on TV and did the full Ginsburg. On CNN, he said, “The press and the American people in a campaign season have a right to know what the evidence is in this case.”
I couldn’t agree more. If Trump's lawyers think it's important to get the evidence in the case out to the people, let’s do it. Let’s have a trial without any more unnecessary delays. This is a one-defendant case. The government is ready to provide discovery to Trump as soon as there’s a protective order in place. The Judge should tell the former president to put his money where his mouth is and prepare for trial. That way, everyone can know what the evidence is.
We’re in this together,