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Author: Heather Cox Richardson

The screaming “American Patriot” is a portrait of how the individualist movement has failed

Jeff Kowalsky’s photograph of the “American Patriot Rally” at the Michigan statehouse on April 30 shows a large, bearded man, leaning forward, mouth open, screaming. Positioned between two police officers who are staring blankly ahead above their masks, he is focused on something they are preventing him from reaching: the legislature. His fury is palpable. The idea that such a man is an “American Patriot” is the perverted outcome of a generations of political rhetoric that has celebrated a cartoon version of “individualism.” That rhetoric has served a purpose: to convince voters that an active government that regulates business,...

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Political operatives designed Anti-Stay-at-Home rallies to divert attention and keep public divided

The big news for two days has been the “protests” of state governors’ stay-at-home orders and mandatory business closings to try to contain the novel coronavirus which, as of today, has taken more than 40,000 American lives. The protests started last week in Lansing, Michigan, on Wednesday, April 15, when demonstrators descended on the state Capitol to protest the “statists” they said were destroying the economy and taking away their liberties. On Friday morning, April 17, Trump tweeted that people needed to “LIBERATE” Michigan, Minnesota, and Virginia, all states with Democratic governors. Then, Saturday, April 18, the Fox News...

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Entitlement to Govern: How the fog of pandemic offers one more chance for a power grab

Observers often make the mistake of thinking that Russian disinformation is designed to pit the American left against the American right to sow chaos. But, in fact, Russian disinformation is designed to pit the American left and the American right against the American center, because it is in the great American center that democracy lives. “The things they had in there were crazy,” Trump told the hosts. “They had things, levels of voting that if you’d ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.” A few days later on April 1, the Georgia...

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How internal racism and external disinformation campaigns turn us against each other

Observers often make the mistake of thinking that Russian disinformation is designed to pit the American left against the American right to sow chaos. But, in fact, Russian disinformation is designed to pit the American left and the American right against the American center, because it is in the great American center that democracy lives. It is true that, despite the many stories out there about how divided we are as a country, there is a vast American center in which most people agree about most things, including hot button issues like abortion, gun control, and immigration. In August...

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America in Crisis: How “We the People” saved Democracy from oligarchs in 1850, 1890, and 1920

With America experiencing a dire situation for the soul of the nation, a lot of folks have asked if America has ever been in such a crisis before, and what people in the past did to save democracy. The answer to the first question is yes it has, three times, although only once was this bad. In the 1850s, the 1890s, and the 1920s, oligarchs took over the nation’s government, controlling the White House, Congress, and the courts. In the 1850s, elite southern slaveholders took over the Democratic Party and insisted that they should have the right to spread...

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Popular Sovereignty and Party Polarization: A lesson from the Kansas-Nebraska Act on political fortunes

In the short term, Trump and his supporters appear to have won their fight to remain in power. The initial position of his defenders in his impeachment trial was that he had neither abused the power of his office by withholding military aid to Ukraine in exchange for help smearing his rival Joe Biden, nor obstructed Congress by covering the scandal up. But the House impeachment managers’ masterful presentation, along with the leaking of material from former National Security advisor John Bolton’s forthcoming book saying that Trump himself had tried to rope Bolton into the scheme kiIIed that argument....

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