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Author: Heather Cox Richardson

Cutthroat individualism, Andrew Carnegie, and lessons for the upcoming midterm elections

In the spring of 1890, Republicans were convinced they would win the upcoming midterm elections. Thanks to their management of the economy, they insisted, the United States was on its way to becoming the most advanced nation in the world. Technology had brought new products to the country — bananas, for example — and upwardly mobile Americans had enough leisure time and money to celebrate weddings with special dresses and cakes, and to give their children toys on their birthday. Massive factories like that of industrialist Andrew Carnegie in Homestead, Pennsylvania, churned out steel to make buildings like Chicago’s...

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When Authoritarianism is not enough: Why bullies claim to be the victims in defense of their brutality

That Republicans appear to be on the cusp of overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion seems to have thrown them into confusion. Since Nixon first raised the issue of abortion as a political wedge in 1972, the year before Roe, they have used the issue to raise money and turn out voters. But now, with the prize seemingly within reach, they are ratcheting up their demands, at least in part to continue to raise money and to turn out voters. They also need to re-create their sense of grievance against the “libs” they have just “owned.” With...

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Decoding Trump’s brand of autocracy and a rightwing ideology that seeks to dismantle our rule of law

It has been hard for me to see the historical outlines of the present-day attack on American democracy clearly. But as I was reading a piece in “Vox” by foreign affairs specialist Zack Beauchamp, describing Florida governor Ron DeSantis’s path in Florida as an attempt to follow in the footsteps of Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, the penny dropped. Here is what I see: Before Trump won the presidency in 2016, the modern-day Republican Party was well on its way to endorsing oligarchy. It had followed the usual U.S. historical pattern to that point. In the 1850s, 1890s, 1920s, and then...

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Why the potential of overturning Roe v. Wade follows Dred Scott decision to remove constitutional rights

News broke on May 2 of a leaked draft of what appears to be Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s majority decision overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision establishing access to abortion as a constitutional right. That news is an alarm like the 1857 Dred Scott v. Sandford decision declaring both that Black Americans had no rights that a White man was bound to respect and that Congress had no power to prohibit human enslavement in the territories. The Dred Scott decision left the question of enslavement not to the national majority, which wanted to prohibit it...

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An Inflection Point: Americans must at least be willing to reclaim our democracy from the rise of oligarchs

In our history, the United States has gone through turning points when we have had to adjust our democratic principles to new circumstances. The alternative is to lose those principles to a small group of people who insist that democracy is outdated and must be replaced by a government run by a few leaders or, now, by a single man. The Declaration of Independence asserted as “self-evident” that all people are created equal and that God and the laws of nature have given them certain fundamental rights. Those include — but are not limited to — life, liberty, and...

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Confusing the concept of democracy with a distorted ideology of unrestricted freedom for individuals

All but two of the Republicans in the House of Representatives voted against a resolution finding Trump aides Dan Scavino and Peter Navarro in contempt of Congress, for refusing to comply with subpoenas from the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol. Among the early “no” votes on April 7 was Representative Greg Pence (R-IN), whose brother, Vice President Mike Pence, was in danger from the mob on January 6 after then-president Trump blamed him for his refusal to overturn the election. The two who voted in favor were committee vice chair Liz...

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