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How Russia and China Pursue a Soft Regime Change in America

Both Russia and China are manipulating our democratic election process to benefit their foreign policies.

Russia has been attempting a soft regime change in America by ushering out the liberal Democratic administrations and replacing them with conservative Republican ones. It is a soft approach because they are not using physical force like in Ukraine. 

However, both Russia and America have physically instigated regime changes in other countries through brute force for over a hundred years, most often on nations in their immediate sphere of interest. 

Russia, whether as a monarchy, communist state, or autocracy, has repeatedly intervened in Eastern Europe and the Caucuses. Likewise, America has done the same in Central and South America. Their efforts are well documented in the context of U.S. and Russian actions.

Since WWII, America’s military presence and financial investments have been more global than any other nation. Consequently, our government has pursued replacing the leadership of countries that obstruct our military and economic interests. That effort often conflicts with China’s and Russia’s ambitions. 

Despite Russia’s more extensive nuclear arsenal, Russia is far weaker economically and militarily than us to have a global impact. While China has a larger army and an economy growing faster than ours, it is also disadvantaged in seeking regime change in other countries. 

Compared to America, they lack our military and financial clout. We have around 750 U.S. military bases in at least 80 countries, and the dollar is the world’s reserve currency, which allows the U.S. to impose unilateral, effective sanctions against other countries.

Although Russia and China eye each other suspiciously over their shared border, they have a common interest: clip the American eagle’s wings. Ideally, they would love to see it in a birdcage rather than soaring above them.

Their shared goal of having America retreat from the world stage dovetails with the Republican party’s support of an America First isolationist foreign policy. 

This is most obvious as Russia opposes the Democrats’ support for military aid to Ukraine and questions America’s participation in NATO. China has not been so partisan in recent years, but it has leaned more toward criticizing Biden than Trump in weighing who would be less obstructive to their foreign policies. 

Thanks to the internet, Russia and China are penetrating our democracy’s open portal of social media to support electing politicians who don’t obstruct their goals.  America cannot reciprocate similarly since these countries tightly control access to their domestic internet and do not hold democratic elections.

Russian electoral interference first came to light in the 2016 presidential election.

If you like this piece, become a Patreon patron or make a one-time donation help me reach others.  – thank you, Nick 

In 2020, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a bi-partisan report that they had worked for over three years. They reviewed over a million documents from U.S. spy agencies and interviews of Republican and Democratic government officials.

The bi-partisan committee concluded that Russia conducted a sophisticated and aggressive campaign to influence the U.S. election to help Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton. They also identified folks on Team Trump as willing to accept help from the Russians. 

Afterward, former FBI director Robert Mueller led a special counsel investigation and released his Mueller Report. It concluded that Russian interference was “sweeping and systematic” and “violated U.S. criminal law.” 

Mueller then indicted three Russian organizations, which also led to the indictments and convictions of Trump campaign officials. 

President Donald Trump had appointed Mueller as deputy attorney general, and the U.S. Senate confirmed him with only 6 Democrats voting against him. After the report was released, Trump called Mueller a “true never-Trumper” and said his report was “horrible.”

Mueller showed that the Russian-controlled Internet Research Agency (IRA) sought to “provoke and amplify political and social discord in the United States” to Trump’s advantage. In the 2016 election, sham Facebook groups were created by IRA supporting Trump or attacking Clinton on over 3,500 advertisements. 

The director of Columbia University‘s Tow Center for Digital Journalism found that 470 phony Facebook accounts tied to Russia were active during the 2016 campaign. Six of them were shared at least 340 million times, according to Jonathan Albright, research director for Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism

However, China’s effort to influence the 2016 presidential election, according to the Brookings Institute’s October 2018 report,  found that “there is no public evidence that China has sought to leak private information or access electoral systems to manipulate U.S. elections.” However, they warned that as relations with China deteriorated, they may become as aggressive as Russia.

While Former President Donald Trump accused China of manipulating the 2020 election, the Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines, concluded that China did not interfere; however, they “considered but did not deploy influence efforts intended to change the outcome of the U.S. Presidential election.”

Instead, they found that the Russian government meddled in the 2020 election with an influence campaign “denigrating” President Joe Biden and “supporting” Trump.

However, China and Russia are working to influence the 2024 presidential race. They appear to be taking different approaches. China is more focused on weakening the democratic process than Russia, which is more actively pushing for a Biden loss in November. 

China employs one of the oldest and most effective strategies for winning a dominance war: creating chaos in the opposition’s domain. This disrupts domestic social cohesion and, hence, causes government functions to fail. 

For instance, this month, an Institute for Strategic Dialogue report identified a Chinese influence campaign known as SpamouflageIt uses AI and a network of social media accounts to amplify American discontent and division ahead of the U.S. presidential election. 

Meta announced in August it had removed nearly 8,000 accounts attributed to Spamouflage in the second quarter of 2023, while Google, owning YouTube, shut down more than 100,000 associated accounts in recent years, 

By describing the U.S. as rife with urban decay, homelessness, fentanyl abuse, and gun violence, China pushes the idea that the November vote could damage and potentially destroy our democracy. Coincidentally, it’s the same message the Republican party’s candidates use against the Democrats.

 Speaking of these problems, Trump claimed in a March 2024 speech to Ohio supporters, “If we don’t win this election, I don’t think you’re going to have another election in this country.” 

China’s efforts amplify a traditional distrust of big government’s failure to address widespread concerns. According to a 2023 survey from the Pew Research Center, 55 percent of Americans say they are angry with the U.S. political system. 

More disturbing, a recent PRC survey showed that American support for democratic institutions has slipped over the last decade. Thirty-two percent would support an authoritarian government in which a strong leader can make decisions without interference from parliament or the courts. 

These folks might not object if Trump became a dictator for a lot longer than a day. 

While China and Russia use social media to undermine the tedium of holding democratic elections, they also highlight the benefits of a single strong leader who can make quick and decisive decisions to reflect some popular sentiments.   

Meanwhile, the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights report on the November election’s digital risks said the leading cause of authoritarian leadership’s growth was the distribution of false, hateful, and violent material. The report noted that this inflammatory content was more prevalent because “major social media platforms have retreated from some of their past commitments to promote election integrity.”

Russia is more creative than China in pushing false information seamlessly into our tapestry of open media sources. 

New York Times reported that researchers and government officials uncovered a string of Russian-controlled “local” sounding newspapers: D.C. Weekly, the New York News Daily, the Chicago Chronicle, and the Miami Chronicle. 

Reviewing the researcher’s findings, Myers wrote that these entities mimic actual news organizations, interspersing false stories about crime, politics, and culture. The goal is to lend an aura of credibility to social media posts that spread disinformation that undermines support for policies like providing Ukraine military assistance. 

According to Professors Darren Linvill and Patrick Warren, co-directors of Clemson University’s Media Forensics Hub, Russia has also crafted the art of narrative laundering. These narratives spread false or misleading information by concealing their source. 

Consequently, public perception of an issue or a candidate is swayed by planting fake news stories on domestic and foreign news websites to magnify fake social media accounts and fake news websites using artificial intelligence. For instance, Russians fabricated a story to weaken American support for Ukraine. The news website The Nation picked up their fake posting of Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s wife spending $1,000,000 on Cartier jewelry. 

The most brazen example of Russian manipulation of our democratic process was their use of an FBI informant, Alexander Smirnov, to link President Biden to alleged criminal actions involving the Ukrainian business dealings of his son Hunter. 

Smirnov admitted that “officials associated with Russian intelligence” were involved in passing an unsupported story about Hunter Biden. He told the FBI that the Russian Intelligence Service intercepted several cellphone calls placed at a hotel “by prominent U.S. persons the Russian government may use as ‘kompromat’ in the 2024 election.” No tape recording was provided.

Government prosecutors believe that Smirnov had peddled the Russian lies without question, which could have impacted U.S. elections. Smirnov has been charged with felony false statements and obstruction crimes for providing allegedly false information about President Biden and Hunter Biden. 

Republicans had counted on his upcoming testimony to Congress to provide evidence that Biden must be impeached because of taking a bribe from a corrupt Ukrainian official. Republicans subsequently had to drop Smirnov from being a witness. The Russians lost a lethal effort to defeat Biden’s reelection.

At the end of March, blogger Heather Cox Richardson identified an essay from the Study of War explaining how Russia’s disinformation operation is the key to winning the war against Ukraine: the objective is to get Americans to believe in a false reality.  

November voters will be deluged with an onslaught of disinformation. Such as the fake stories about President Zelenskyy’s wife and Biden’s son, to discredit those in power that obstruct authoritarian aggression.

As Linvill and Warren concluded, it is becoming more difficult for people to discern which news stories are fake because advancing technology distorts the face of reality.

If you like this piece, become a Patreon patron or make a one-time donation help me reach others.  – thank you, Nick 

As previously noted, Russia and China cannot win a global economic or military contest with America. However, they can create social conditions within America that convert legitimate policy concerns into a movement that rejects a democratic process for governing. It is easier for them to sow domestic confusion about the legitimacy of America’s elected leadership than to overpower America’s resources. 

Describing their strategy as promoting a soft regime change may seem exaggerated. Pushing for a particular party to win presidential elections undermines our democratic process, but there has always been another election to adjust our political course. 

America has continuously had a peaceful transfer of executive power, allowing policy changes to occur. However, an authoritarian regime could emerge when a nation’s executive refuses to leave office. 

In March, during a CNN town hall, Trump refused to commit to accepting the results of the 2024 presidential election.He says that the last election was rigged despite no evidence provided. Unfortunately, more than 40 percent of Republicans believe there is evidence that Biden didn’t legitimately win enough votes to be elected.

Trump has again set the stage to claim the presidency was stolen from him if he loses the November election. How would his supporters react? 

Russia and China would love if Trump were right about a possible bloodbath should he lose again and his supporters take the advice he gave at the end of his January 6 speech asking them to march to the Capitol and “fight like hell.” And so, the American eagle would no longer be soaring. 

Nick Licata is the author of Becoming A Citizen Activist and Student Power, Democracy and Revolution in the Sixties.He is the founding board chair of Local Progress, a national network of over 1,300 progressive municipal officials.

Subscribe to Licata’s newsletterCitizenship Politics.

Biden vs Trump Administration on creating jobs and better wages for blue-color workers


While immigration and abortion are the two hottest issues driving voters’ passion, the national economy has remained one of the public’s top three concerns for years. 

More recently, in three 2023 polls the Wall Street Journal conducted from April to December, the economy ranked as the top issue out of twelve.

Those surveyed were asked: What issue is most important to you when thinking about who you will vote for in the 2024 Presidential Election? Republicans have been hammering Biden’s administration for soaring inflation and hurting our economy even while they contributed to it.  

At the end of his first year in 2021, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell accused Biden of causing inflation,saying, “The last thing we need to do is pile on with another massive, reckless tax and spending spree.”

McConnell ignored that both parties were responsible for the consumer price index (CPI) increasing at a 5% annual rate for the first half of 2021. 

Congressional Republicans and Democrats overwhelmingly passed over $2 trillion of economic stimulus legislation in response to COVID in Trump’s last term in office. The legislation stopped the economy from collapsing when the pandemic threw millions of workers out of work and halted many business operations.

Trump signed the legislation and took credit for providing $1,200 checks to individuals and $790 billion in low-interest loans to small businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) when the program ended in the fifth month of Biden’s first year in office, 96% of those loans had been forgiven. 

These federal funds saved the economy but also triggered inflation, stoked further by the Federal Reserve Board, significantly increasing bank borrowing rates. 

However, the U.S. was not alone in having to deal with inflation. It climbed to the highest level since 2008 in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s 38 member countries. It was also due to COVID shrinking the labor force and stimulating consumer demand as the pandemic receded. 

Former President Donald Trump ran a TV campaign ad just before Biden gave his State of the Union address, saying that “Biden refuses to talk about the unfairness of his disastrous, failed ‘Bidenomics’ policies,”

Trump’s hyper-accusation is faulty. Nevertheless, food costs were relatively flat under Trump’s administration before the economic impact of COVID kicked in during the last half of Trump’s final year.

In the first year of Biden’s term, food costs soared to over 6%. That increase was directly due to COVID’s impact on reduced labor and materials supplies, as more dollars were pumped into the economy bidding for fewer goods.

The politics of blaming Biden for many of the economic problems spawned by COVID may have pushed the polls toshow that their economic welfare fell under President Joe Biden’s administration.  

In the eight polls that WSJ conducted from March 2022 to February 2024, just over half of the respondents strongly disapproved of how Biden handled the economy, specifically inflation and rising costs. Those who strongly approved never exceeded 19% until the last poll in February, when they hit 23%. This is good news for Biden, but he still faces a 50% strong disapproval rate.

Trump’s campaign capitalized on these findings. “President Biden, the polls are accurate. Americans just don’t like you for destroying our economy,” said Jason Miller, a senior Trump campaign adviser. 

It is essential to note which party the WSJ poll respondents are affiliated with. Until February, Republican-affiliated respondents were 31%, and Democrat-affiliated respondents were 34%. Independents have remained constant at nine and ten percent. The percentages of Republicans and Democrats flipped in the last poll, which showed 31% for Democrats and 34% for Republicans. 

There is some evidence that independent voters might be inclined to support Biden. In a pre-speech poll of Biden’s State of the Union, independents who believed his economic policies would move the US in the right direction jumped from 41% to 61% afterward.

A Biden information campaign could resonate with independent voters if they are swayed more by data than party allegiance. If so, independents might look closely at what both campaigns are saying to see if it aligns with reality.  

The most significant slice of the populace, regardless of party affiliation, are wage workers. They are concerned with having a job and making enough to keep up with inflation. In their State of the Union (SOTU) speeches, both Trump and Biden made a pitch to them.

Job Creation 

In his last SOTU, Trump said seven million new jobs had been created since his election.

When Trump spoke, he was correct. However, the coronavirus was already spreading across the globe, and within weeks, the U.S. economy was shut down, throwing millions of people out of work. As a result, Trump ended up with more than 3.1 million jobs in the hole because of pandemic employment losses. 

In his STU, Biden disputed Trump’s claims by presenting good economic news from the first three years of his administration. He proudly said that during this time, “15 million new jobs in just three years — a record, a record!”

Delivering federal money to aid businesses to continue operating during COVID played a significant role in that expansive number. It may be that up to eleven million of those new jobs were due to workers returning to jobs they had lost. 

Nevertheless, data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that Biden created more jobs over a shorter period than Trump. 

Trump’s peak of non-farm employment in February 2020 was 152 million; it took him three years to add 6 million workers since he started his presidency. After that February, the pandemic struck the economy, and employment plummeted to 109 million by April 2020. 

Biden’s peak of non-farm employment was 158 million in February 2024; it took him three years to add 15 million workers from when he started his presidency. 

The bottom line is that job creation expansion occurred under both administrations, but it contracted sharply when COVID hit the entire population. 

The emergence of COVID, or any natural disaster, goes beyond any president’s control. 

However, how they respond and how funds are used determines their effectiveness in dealing with these events. Biden responded very well by creating more jobs faster than before the pre-COVID economy under Trump’s administration. 

If you like this piece, become a Patreon patron or make a one-time donation help me reach others.  – thank you, Nick 

Blue Color Wages

Democrats are distressed by their blue color voter base swinging over to the Republicans. 

They lean on Republicans’ cultural war against the “elites,” i.e., liberals and Democrats, for an explanation. 

There is some truth on how the liberal cultural agenda threatens many established conservative values by promoting affirmative actions, more accessible admittance for asylum seekers, and institutional protections for all minorities – including race, gender, and sexual identification. 

However, in the field of economic welfare, Democrats cannot understand how working-class families could support a narcissistic billionaire who gives out-sized tax benefits to corporations and comparatively meager ones to working families. The answer may rest in the fact that under the Trump Administration, paychecks rose.

A president’s chance of winning reelection is often based on how most voters have experienced the economy during the last four years. A good economy is whether paychecks grow faster than prices in “real” (inflation-adjusted) terms.

The average weekly earnings of all private-sector workers, in “real” terms, rose 8.7% in Trump’s four years. More germane for Democrats is that the blue-color wages for rank-and-file production and nonsupervisory workers — who make up 81% of all private-sector workers — went up 9.8% under Trump.

Workers probably don’t care that those gains were an extension of a trend that started after the 2007-2009 recession. During the last Democratic term, the Obama years, real weekly earnings rose 4.2% for all workers and 4% for rank-and-file. However, what workers do care about are the last four years under the Biden Administration. 

Unfortunately for Biden, as Matt Bruenig, writing for the socialist magazine Jacobin, explains, real wages have declined under Joe Biden’s Presidency. Bruenig writes, ” It’s clear that most workers saw their real wages decline throughout nearly all of 2021 and 2022.

His chart shows that the median usual weekly real earnings of full-time workers rose from the beginning of 2018 to the spring of 2020 while Trump was in office. Afterward, they fell dramatically for the next 24 months and only then began a modest rise. By December 2023, real wages were only $3 higher than when COVID started four years earlier.

In brief, Bruenig makes it “clear that most workers saw their real wages decline throughout nearly all of 2021 and 2022.” That fact bolsters explains how the cultural war alone does not account for most blue-colored workers supporting Trump. 

Biden’s way forward

It is easy to understand why WSJ’s polls showed many workers felt better off under the Trump administration. The steady rise in their real wages contracted during Biden’s administration when the brunt of COVID’s constraints on business activity landed. 

While economic stimulus funds, supported by both parties, softened COVID’s impact on most workers, they also fed inflation, which the independent Federal Reserve Bank contributed to by increasing interest rates. Rising inflation reduced the margin between stalled wages and rising consumer costs. 

History shows that both Trump and Biden supported government intervention in the marketplace, pouring historically high amounts of federal dollars into it to avert an economic recession. Inflation and job fluctuations resulted in both cases. 

If Biden tries to validate his economic policies by explaining complex data, he will lose his audience to Trump, who has spent his life promoting his successes, real or not. He ignores critical details that compromise their importance because he knows how to captivate an audience through extravagant feats against a common enemy. 

The Democratic message should be that Biden, as the helmsman, steered this country back into calmer waters. He successfully managed the most significant sudden infusion of federal funds and regulations the U.S. had seen since the Great Depression. Biden’s economic policies followed up on the bi-partisan effort to avoid a financial collapse due to COVID. And he did so without blaming others for our condition.

If you like this piece, become a Patreon patron or make a one-time donation help me reach others.  – thank you, Nick 

Nick Licata is the author of Becoming A Citizen Activist and Student Power, Democracy and Revolution in the Sixties.He is the founding board chair of Local Progress, a national network of over 1,300 progressive municipal officials.

Subscribe to Licata’s newsletterCitizenship Politics.

Haley Could Threaten Trump’s Hold on the Republican Party

Former United Nations ambassador and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley will not be the Republican presidential Candidate. But she could still threaten Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. 

The indisputable numbers show why Trump will be the Republican nominee. 

Winning the GOP nomination requires at least 1,215 out of 2,429 delegates to win the convention vote to become the Republican nominee.  After winning the South Carolina and Michigan primaries, Trump has 138 delegates, and Haley has 24. 

The six-to-one ratio of delegates between them will likely be the same after Super Tuesday on March 5. That’s when 15 states hold Republican primaries, which account for nearly half of all delegates to their convention.

Unfortunately for Haley, most state Republican primaries award most or all of their delegates to the winner. That’s why Haley received only 6% of her home state of South Carolina’s delegates but received 40% of the votes.

Nate Cole, the chief political analyst for The New York Times, is betting that Trump could easily win more than 90 percent of the total delegates at stake on Super Tuesday. Before the end of March, Trump could secure the nomination to be the Republican presidential nominee.

The Trump-run Republican Party is not a home for Haley.

Haley’s political future will be over if Trump controls the Republican party. Her prior half-hearted support of Trump as the Republican candidate will not spare her. Trump’s narcissistic modus operandi for revenge will likely lead him to hinder, if not block, Haley from winning any political office in the future.  

Haley has gotten under his skin more than the other primary contenders. Her refusal to abandon the fight until late in the game has driven him to often attack her rather than President Joe Biden. 

If you like this piece, become a Patreon patron or make a one-time donation help me reach others.  – thank you, Nick 

Does Haley attend the Republican convention? 

The Republican convention audience will be overwhelmingly pro-Trump, and Haley will face immense party pressure there to approve Trump as the party’s nominee. The media would hound her about when or whether she would endorse Trump. 

If she offers a luck-warm endorsement speech, it could receive tepid applause from die-hard Trumpers. A demonstratable bearhug may get the crowd’s vocal approval, but Trump could hold back. Would it be worth going through this humiliation? Others have. 

If she attends the convention, her strongest rationale for not endorsing Trump would be if he were convicted of a crime or tied down in a brutal trial during the convention. 

In those instances, even the ultimate Teflon candidate might appear to be damaged goods to the big funders and conservative-leaning independent voters.

But holding off to the last moment to make an endorsement decision only delays acknowledging that she has no future in the Trump world.

A bolder course of action would be to avoid the convention and publicly declare that she remains a reasonable conservative alternative to Trump, noting that she has consistently received support from 20% to 40% of Republican voters. 

She could time her announcement to coincide with the convention, turning the media spotlight from what should be the main event to one that offers an interesting counterpoint.

In the past, this has been Trump’s tactic of scheduling events while he should be attending an affair with his opposition, e.g., the primary campaign debates. 

If Haley can’t be an apologist for Trump, she may be an independent rival for the presidency. Her campaign would shift from winning the Republican nomination to saving the real Republican party from Trump. It would be an arduous effort that would need money and volunteers. Could she get them?

Billionaire Funders made Haley’s primary campaigns possible. 

Haley has lasted this long in the Republican primary for one reason: she has big funders willing to throw money into her campaigns. Madison Fernandez, the author of Politico’s campaigns newsletter, says, “Haley and her allies outspent Trump in the lead-up to both the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary.” 

Still, she remains a long shot for being the Republican nominee. Look at South Carolina’s race. Trump only spent $900,000 on a media campaign, while Haley and pro-Haley PACs poured in $15 million to garner 3 delegates to Trump’s 47.

But even big funders have a pain limit. Americans for Prosperity, the face of the massive conservative Charles Koch’s fundraising network, said the day following the South Carolina vote that it ceased financial support for the Haley campaign and its associated allied organizations. Before this announcement, the Koch network spent $32 million to boost Haley’s campaign against Trump.

The WMUR PAC, funded by billionaire Frank Laukien, may also drop Haley since his PAC was formed directly after Koch’s Americans for Prosperity endorsed Haley. The dominoes may start to fall. Other PACs may hold out for Super Tuesday results. However, if Haley doesn’t win one state or collect a noticeable number of delegates, their goal of presenting Haley as a viable alternative to Trump would seem quixotic. 

Haley is short on Republican party leaders supporting her.

Of the 12 other primary candidates who competed with Trump, only two have endorsed Haley, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson. 

However, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the most outspoken primary candidate critic of Trump, hasn’t endorsed her. On January 10, he ended his nomination campaign and implied that Haley, like the other candidates, failed to say that Trump threatened the nation.

Two other high-profile elected Republicans, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, said they won’t vote for Trump in 2024. But they have not endorsed Haley, nor would they vote for Biden.

Several high-profile elected Republicans have endorsed Haley, including New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, Former House Speaker Paul Ryan, and U.S. S.C. Representative Ralph Norman. 

Haley’s key politicians do not represent a unified Republican ideological perspective. Sununu and Hagan are moderates, Ryan and Hutchinson are conservatives but fought with the Freedom Caucus, and Norman is a leading member of the Freedom Caucus. 

Haley relies on Republican politicians who lack a coherent, united base other than their opposition to Trump. She needs to go beyond them by attracting voters who would not vote for Trump or Biden. These voters are conservative independents and anti-Trump Republicans, but is there enough of them to make her a threat to Trump?

Who would be Haley’s voters? 

South Carolina’s race was an open race where voters did not have to be party members to vote. Haley won only a handful of counties in the state that were dominated by more significant numbers of moderate white college-educated independents. 

They are the critical band of voters not profoundly tied to either party and could determine where swing states go in a two-way presidential race. A third national candidate appealing to a constituency of conservative non-Trumpers allows them to avoid voting for a Democrat. Voting for Haley would send a message to the Republican party that their membership goes beyond the MAGA crowd. 

Trump’s voter support may not be as strong as it appears. 

If elected president, Haley would be the only Republican president to have lost her state in the primary. And at 60%, Trump received the second-highest percentage of votes since 1980 in South Carolina’s primary. Only George H.W. Bush, running as an incumbent president in 1992, received a higher percentage, at 67%. 

However, the media has ignored another statistic. Bush lost the 1992 presidential election to Bill Clinton by over 200 electoral votes despite overwhelmingly winning South Carolina’s primary. 

By competing in over half the state primary fights, Haley has given voice to many Never-Trump voters. While not united on issues, they are repulsed by Trump. They span the spectrum from liberal to traditional conservative Republicans who are not part of the MAGA movement. They are adrift and could dissipate long before November.

Nevertheless, Haley is a threat to Trump. Alyssa Farah Griffin, former White House communications director under President Trump, said that Haley  “is underscoring the fundamental weakness of Donald Trump, and it should be a five-alarm fire for the party.”

Griffin argues that Republicans must grapple, saying, “It’s unclear what a path could look like for Nikki Haley. I think we’re all very open-eyed about that.”

Will Haley be a Footnote or a Change Agent?

Once Trump secures the delegates to become the Republican nominee, Haley could take the easy way out. She could remain on the sidelines by formally withdrawing or just be present as a reminder that there is an option should Trump’s court cases drag him down. In either case, her influence on the party will be minor. 

The other option is to announce that she will be an independent candidate for president. However, she would work with the Republican party to advance its agenda. This approach is the same that Bernie Sanders was taking when he toyed with running as an independent for the presidency. 

She would be outside the Republican party’s apparatus but totally in support of the party’s values. And she could accuse Trump of representing the reorganized Republican Party while she was speaking for those Republicans who no longer feel the party represents them.

Realistically, she would not have a chance of becoming president. But she would be more than a spoiler for Trump, although she might also receive some independent voters who might vote for Biden. Her stated goal would be to resurrect the “real” Republican Party. She would support its long-held values of supporting family values, less government, and open-market legislation. 

Above all, she would present a stable leadership that Trump’s temperament obstructs. She would run a government based on loyalty to the Constitution, not personal loyalty. How many conservative voters want to switch horses as the presidential race has begun is unknown. 

By sticking to a solidly conservative Republican platform, she loses Democratic voters. Still, she allows conservatives to feel good about voting for someone other than Trump and not a Democrat or a liberal Republican. That approach will go down better in rural areas than in cities. As such, she cuts into the core of Trump’s base.

Haley doesn’t have to compete in all the states to significantly impact the distribution of electoral votes. 

Haley could be on most State ballots.

Being a write-in candidate is the easiest path to being on a state’s ballot. Of the eight states that allow voters to write in any name as a write-in vote, three, including Iowa, provided Trump 18 electoral votes in 2020. 

Another 33 states will only count votes for write-in candidates who officially registered with the state. A candidate can easily meet those requirements by submitting necessary registration documents by a specific deadline, paying a fee, or collecting signatures.

The other route is to be an independent candidate on the ballot. The deadline for 31 states is in August, a couple of weeks after the Republican Convention ends on July 18. 

Some states bar candidates who sought and failed to secure the nomination of a political party from running as independents in the general election. However, according to Ballotpedia, ballot access expert Richard Winger concluded that “sore loser laws have been construed not to apply to presidential primaries.” According to Winger, 45 states have sore loser laws on the books, but 43 of these states do not seem to apply to presidential candidates.

Haley’s possible narrow path forward.

There is a path forward for Haley to run as an independent conservative Republican in enough states to create a counterbalance to the MAGA wing of the party. She will not become president but could stir enough excitement to entice PACs to fund her effort. 

Volunteers may step forward to work their state for her to demonstrate that they cannot tolerate a party dominated by a single personality. The new group Principles First could be attracted to her effort.  They are focused on advancing a more principled center-right politics in the United States. 

A Haley presidential run could attract the media interested in something to spice up their coverage of two elderly white men slugging it out. The media would hype her campaign as a way of disparaging Trump. But the conservative media, particularly NewsNation and, to an extent, a few of Fox’s commentators, might enjoy poking Trump as they have done in the past.

It all comes down to Haley deciding if she wants to go down peacefully resigned to accepting the new Trumpian Republican Party or if she’s going to open a new page in the history of her party.

 We’ll all know by the beginning of August, if not before. 

If you like this piece, become a Patreon patron or make a one-time donation help me reach others.  – thank you, Nick 

Nick Licata is the author of Becoming A Citizen Activist and Student Power, Democracy and Revolution in the Sixties.He is the founding board chair of Local Progress, a national network of over 1,300 progressive municipal officials.

Subscribe to Licata’s newsletterCitizenship Politics.

America must force Israel to avoid a “catastrophic” military invasion of Rafah

The U.S. must attempt to deter a possible Israeli military slaughter of Palestinians in the city of Rafah. President Biden needs the support of Congress to adopt past presidents’ actions to accomplish that objective. Without a military invasion of Rafah, an opportunity still exists for Israel to pursue a lasting peace, not continuous war. 

Why Is Israel’s Army invading Rafah?

Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu confirmed that his military will engage in a “powerful” assault on Rafah to flush out Hamas militants from hideouts in Rafah and free Israeli hostages being held there.

Consequently, it has begun to hammer Rafah in preparation for a ground assault as Israeli tanks shelled the eastern sector of the city overnight on Feb 13. The city’s residents now live in fear of the Israeli army entering the town and systematically going building to building in search of Hamas militants, whom Israel believes are dug into and under many structures, including apartment buildings and medical centers. 

Israel is revenging the savage invasion by Gaza’s ruling Hamas party into Israel on October 7. The Israeli death toll was 1,139, with over 200 of their civilians kidnapped and taken back to Gaza, where most remain. 

Meanwhile, Gaza health authorities, which collect data primarily from hospitals, police, and the U.N. authority in Gaza, estimate that over 28,000 Gaza residents have been killed to date. That number would also include Hamas fighters, but most are residents. And, unless the dead person is holding a gun, who’s to say if they were a Hamas fighter?

Rafah’s Current Condition  

Rafah had a pre-war population of about 300,000; now, it teems with half of Gaza’s 2.3 million people squeezed into tent camps and makeshift shelters.

Most of them sought safe refuge there because Israel told them to leave northern Gaza as Israel’s military invaded and bombarded northern Gaza four months ago. 

Although Israel says that its military is making plans to evacuate Palestinian civilians, no plan has been made public. Meanwhile, aid agencies say the displaced have nowhere else to go.

United Nations aid chief Martin Griffiths said in a statement on February 13, “Military operations in Rafah could lead to a slaughter in Gaza. They could also leave an already fragile humanitarian operation at death’s door.”

A joint statement from our other allies was released, critical of Israel’s threats to invade Rafah. The prime ministers of Australia, Canada, and New Zealand said they are “gravely concerned” about potentially “catastrophic” Israeli military operations in Rafah and called for an immediate ceasefire. 

America should respond by taking the following actions if Israel invades Rafah. 

The US could condition or hold up future military aid except anti-missile technology to Israel. Biden at first said that was a “worthwhile thought,” but days later, his officials ruled that proposal out on the Sunday talk shows. But that was before Israel declared its intention to invade Rafah. 

Biden’s officials may be back this Sunday’s morning talk shows. If they are, they must be questioned on why they couldn’t restrict or deny additional arms to Israel in light of what its military is preparing to do to Rafah. 

Biden should consider how President Truman refused to provide military assistance to Israel during its war of independence, although he conferred recognition on the new State of Israel. He was fair to Israel, but he was tough in setting boundaries. 

Biden has some executive authority over the budget to allow him to hold up military aid to Israel as leverage to cancel the invasion. However, he recognizes that Congress’s sizable bipartisan pro-Israel contingent could pass veto-proof legislation to work around his executive order. 

For example, before Israel invaded Gaza, approximately three-quarters of the House of Representatives — split relatively evenly between Democrats and Republicans — went on record supporting continued security assistance to Israel without conditions that 15 liberal Democrats wanted the House to consider. 

Despite this political constraint, Biden must be a strong voice for achieving long-term peace in the Middle East. If Israel invades Rafah, that voice will likely be ignored since Biden will be seen as an ineffective leader in stopping or even slowing down the humanitarian crisis spinning off of Israel’s ground war in Gaza.  

The U.S. could vote for a U.N. resolution condemning an Israeli attack on Rafah while still recognizing Israel’s right to exist. President Johnson had the U.S. vote for a United Nations Resolution condemning Israel when it invaded the West Bank with the understanding that the U.S. would not be obliged to support all of its military actions.

Taking such a stand will also give the U.S. more credence with Muslim nations that are now questioning their willingness to work with Israel since they have decimated Gaza.  This position would help the U.S. be an effective negotiator to not only bring an end to the war but also build an alliance of Muslim nations who want to see a stable democratic Gaza and West Bank emerge without Hamas. 

For instance, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi is being pressured by domestic leaders to not stand idly by if Israel continues its aggression on Rafah. Egypt is a significant player in bringing about a long-term Muslim acceptance of having a Jewish state living peaceably alongside multiple Muslim nations. 

Creating a foolish humanitarian crisis in Rafah would result in over a million refugees trying to cross into Egypt. Suppose that is the Netanyahu Administration’s plan on how to get rid of Gaza residents. In that case, it will lead to the demolition of the 1978 Camp David Accords, which has averted an Israeli war with Egypt since then.  

The Biden administration has conveyed to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that “under current circumstances,” with no plan to protect civilians crammed into Rafah, an Israeli assault on the southern Gaza City would be a “disaster.”  Biden told Netanyahu that to ensure civilian safety, a ground invasion “should not proceed” without a plan. Israel has not revealed any such plan. 

Now, Biden needs to show that the U.S. is a cooperative ally but not to the extent of contributing to the death and destruction that Netanyahu’s administration is determined to pursue until Hamas is eliminated. That is an unattainable goal. The Israelis could kill every Hamas military leader, and still, a future fanatical group will surface more intent on destroying Israel. 

Indeed, Hamas needs to be removed as an authoritarian power in Gaza, but destroying Gaza will not accomplish that. Israel’s actions will only feed the belief that Jews and Muslims will never live peaceably side by side. 

The U.S. is uniquely positioned to exert leadership in pushing for a rational, long-range solution. President Trump’s Abraham Accords offered a glimpse of how Israel can work peacefully with Muslims in the Middle East. The declaration established bilateral agreements on Arab–Israeli normalization between Israel and three Muslim countries in 2020.

However, that effort will not halt future conflicts between Israelis and Palestinians until the governments of both nations have non-fundamentalist leaders. The U.S. should direct our help to Israel and Palestine to have leaders that choose diplomacy, not perpetual revenge wars.

If you liked this piece, please email it to others who might like to give some thought to this issue. 

Nick Licata is the author of Becoming A Citizen Activist and Student Power, Democracy and Revolution in the Sixties. He is the founding board chair of Local Progress, a national network of over 1,300 progressive municipal officials.

Subscribe to Licata’s newsletter , Citizenship Politics.

Biden Can Stop the Middle East War from Losing His Election

Democrats must realize that despite keeping our troops out of Gaza, the longer the Israeli-Hamas War continues, the more the public will see the Israeli-Hamas War as President Joe Biden’s War. Even though the U.S. is only one of ten governments that support Israel in the war against Hamas, we are by far the most significant foreign funder of Israel’s military.

Under President Barack Obama, we established a ten-year commitment to provide $3.8 billion annually for Israel’s military and missile defense systems. Both Democrats and Republicans immediately wanted to send additional billions more to Israel after October 7. 

Biden requested at least $14.3 billion in further military assistance to Israel. House Republicans countered by wanting to provide Israel with $17 billion without any funds allocated to Ukraine. Both bills failed to pass the House.

Not only did both parties quickly jump to support Israel, but an October 11th poll showed two-thirds of Americans also supported Israel. 

Still, support for Israel started splintering. According to data collected by an academic project, the Crowd Counting Consortium, within ten days of October 7, there were 180,000 demonstrators, with roughly 270 events in solidarity with Israel and 200 in support of Palestine. 

As Israel started bombing civilian housing and hospitals in Gaza to flush out Hamas fighters, the United Nations reported that 1.9 million Gazans had been internally displaced, with more than 1 million of them lacking a safe and secure home.

Consequently, the polls saw younger voters between 18 and 34, who are generally Democratic voters, disapproving of Biden’s handling of the war by an estimated 70%.

With Biden still refusing to call for an immediate cease-fire in the war, angry protestors started showing up at his campaign rallies. 

In January, anti-war protestors interrupted more than a dozen times while Biden tried to address democratic voters in Virginia. The next day, he was repeatedly interrupted again at his endorsement rally held by the United Auto Workers

Worse yet for Biden, he began to feel the squeeze from both sides of the political spectrum. The left was attacking Biden for not cutting military aid to Israel as their army was creating a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. 

The right was demanding that he directly retaliate against Iran’s proxy paramilitary groups. They were attacking U.S. troops in the Middle East to punish America for not calling a halt to Israel’s Gaza invasion. 

Biden’s troubles began when he abandoned his usually cautious diplomatic approach to conducting foreign affairs and gave a pass to Israel to bombard and then invade Gaza. Biden called Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu on October 7,saying his support for Israel is “rock solid” and America stood “ready to offer all appropriate means of support.”   

Previously, he criticized Netanyahu, who leads the most right-wing government in Israel’s history. Believing that Netanyahu was trying to gut Israel’s independent judiciary to favor Israel’s fundamentalist factions, Biden had dodged meeting with Netanyahu for months. 

More importantly, Biden’s administration warned Netanyahu that their plans to expand their settlements in the West Bank by 13,000 new housing units undermined the viability of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Then he 

blamed the right-wing members of Netanyahu’s cabinet for justifying Israeli settlers attacking Palestinian citizens in the West Bank. 

Netanyahu ignored these comments and announced that his government opposed any two-state solution that Biden and most past administrations had endorsed.  

With Netanyahu’s right-wing party in complete control of Israel’s war plans, Biden has disappointed many American liberals, youth, and minorities. They see him as enabling Israel’s invasion and subsequent destruction of Gaza’s infrastructure and the deaths of over 10,000 children.   

Offering Netanyahu’s administration unqualified support has checked his ability or willingness to restrain Israel’s massive military response. Netanyahu ignores any restraint or concerns about civilian casualties voiced by Biden. 

Unable to influence Israel, Biden has appeared as an ineffective and weak leader to his supporters, the American public, and world leaders. And one that he is too old to continue as president.  A characterization that conforms perfectly to Trump’s campaign message. 

Meanwhile, Netanyahu’s National Security Minister, Ben Gvir, leader of Jewish Power, a far-right political party, belittles Biden. In a Wall Street Journal interview, Gvir accused the Biden administration of benefitting Hamas more than Israel. 

Gvir said, “Instead of giving us his full backing, [President Joe] Biden is busy with giving humanitarian aid and fuel, which goes to Hamas; if Trump were in power, the US conduct would be completely different.”

Netanyahu seems to share Gvir’s view when he says, “As a sovereign state fighting for its existence and future, we will make our decisions by ourselves.” Note that Netanyahu’s administration would fall without Jewish Power’s support as a coalition member in the government. 

Netanyahu is counting on Republicans to push Biden to hit Iran and the military groups it funds, referred to as Iran’s Axis of Resistance, which surround Israel. Israel expects that the U.S. attacking these groups should diminish their ability to harm Israel directly.  

Iran claims that they don’t control their proxy militaries, and Middle East analysts acknowledge that Iran does not necessarily have complete control over their actions. However, Iran helped create some, like Hezbollah, and provides arms to all of them. In addition, some are closely linked to Iran ‘s Revolutionary Guards, which have an estimated 125,000-strong military, making it the Middle East’s largest Muslim army.  

What began as Biden supporting Israel’s self-defense is transforming into a regional warfare between the U.S. and Iran-backed hardline fundamentalist armed groups. Looming on the horizon is a direct exchange of firepower between Iran and the U.S.

Iran and its allied para-military groups not only oppose Israel’s existence but, more immediately, the current stationing of our 30,000 troops in this Muslim-controlled region. After October 7, Iran’s proxies moved from scattered confrontations to direct attacks on our troops and warships.

In early January, Yemen’s Houthi militants fired several powerful Russian anti-ship missiles at U.S. destroyers in the Red Sea. Fortunately, they were destroyed before hitting the ships. Given that since Oct. 7, there have been 160 drone attacks against American soldiers and allies in the Middle East, American soldier fatalities would seem to be inevitable.

As a result, a paramilitary group attacked a remote U.S. military outpost on January 28 in northeastern Jordan, killing three army reservists and injuring at least 34 others.

The media widely and wrongly declared that these three deaths marked the first time U.S. soldiers have died as a direct result of an armed attack by an Iran-backed paramilitary group. 

Republican leaders demanded retribution. Senator Lindsey Graham said, “I am calling on the Biden Administration to strike targets of significance inside Iran.” Graham told Fox News that the Biden should blow up their oil fields and Revolutionary Guard headquarters in Iran to deter its future aggression toward our troops.

The most senior Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Roger Wicker, said: “We must respond to these repeated attacks by Iran and its proxies by striking directly against Iranian targets and its leadership.” 

Partisanship made Graham and Wicker forget that during President Ronald Reagan’s Administration, 241 American soldiers were killed in Lebanon in October 1983 by Hezbollah, founded by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

At that time, Republicans refrained from advising Reagan to take the provocative actions that Senators Graham and Wicker now want Biden to embrace. Nevertheless, Biden is blamed for skirting military reprisals as cuddling Iran, ignoring that a direct attack on Iran would likely lead our current ground troops into combat. 

Trump recognizes that Biden has only a narrow path to exert a peaceful solution. Like Richard Nixon, who campaigned and won against Hubert Humphry in 1968, Trump can present himself as the only candidate who can end the war favorably for the US and Israel. 

Using Nixon as a role model, he also will not present a plan because he doesn’t need one. He need only accuse Biden of making mistakes and boast that he would not make them as a president. 

Biden faces an uphill battle to win a second term. He must get Democrats to accept that he is being fair to both the Israelis and the Palestinians. And convince independents that he can keep our nation out of war. 

To win back fallen-away Democrats to win the presidency, he needs to seriously pressure Netanyahu’s administration to abandon their unrealistic goal of permanently eliminating Hamas. 

Israel’s strategy of eradicating fundamentalist militant groups failed miserably when Israel invaded Lebanon in October 1982 to destroy the PLO. The year after PLO was kicked out of the country, Hezbollah took control over southern Lebanon. 

Israel killing thousands of innocent Gaza residents is only going to lead to future wars with the survivors of this war. And it could drag the U.S. deeper into the Middle East quagmire of fighting on multiple fronts in a guerilla type of warfare. 

Biden can learn from the past presidents who have supported Israel as a nation-state in the Middle East but who had a firm and fair hand in avoiding an unlimited commitment to actions that do not directly serve our interests. 

President Harry S. Truman conferred recognition on the State of Israel after it declared independence in May 1948, but he didn’t provide military assistance to Israel. A situation now that is unthinkable by both Democrats and Republican Parties. 

President Dwight D. Eisenhower was able to force Israel to return the Sinai to Egypt after Israel captured it in a war between them due to Egypt blockading a key Israel seaport. 

In November 1966, when the Israelis attacked the West Bank, President Lyndon B. Johnson had the U.S. vote for a United Nations Resolution condemning Israel’s action. He then sent an emergency airlift of military equipment to Jordan. The message to Israel was that the U.S. was not going to let Israel determine our foreign policy. 

President Jimmy Carter brokered the 1978 Camp David Accords after he sequestered Egypt’s President and Israel’s Prime Minister at Camp David for two weeks to reach an agreement ending three decades of intermittent war between them.

President Ronald Reagan approved Israel invading Lebanon in 1982 to destroy the PLO for attacking northern Israel. Reagan’s pyrrhic victory cost between 17,000 and 40,000 Palestinian and Lebanese lives. The day after Iran’s proxy group Hezbollah killed over two hundred U.S. Marines, Reagan said that our soldiers “must stay there until the situation is under control.” 

In February 1983, he said, “If we’re to be secure in our homes and in the world, we must stand together against those who threaten us.” Just three days later, Reagan ordered Marines to pull out of Lebanon, with a complete withdrawal achieved in three weeks. Israel continues to exist, along with Hezbollah in Lebanon, despite Reagan removing all U.S. military from that country.  

Past presidents had to make hard decisions on what was best for the U.S. over that of any ally, including Israel. Successful experiences show they can support a secure Israel rather than an aggressive one. That is a lesson that Biden must learn from former presidents.

Biden belatedly took a small step by sanctioning non-American West Bank Israeli settlers from terrorizing their Palestinian neighbors. However, it was a gesture lost in the massive media coverage of thousands of innocent children killed by Israel bombing their homes in search of Hamas. 

Biden can achieve his goal of America defending Israel’s right to exist and working with Palestinians to create a democratic, self-ruled state. To do so, he should take advice from Netanyahu: make decisions that are best for your nation and not just for your allies. 

As a democratic society, we benefit by promoting the welfare of other societies and not contributing to their destruction, which will generate more violent conflicts for future generations. Biden should articulate that principle in his campaign and act on them as president. Thus, he can force Trump to say how he intends to end the Israeli–Hamas war and not perpetuate U.S. involvement in Middle East wars. 

If you liked this piece, please email it to others who might like to give some thought to this issue. 

Nick Licata is the author of Becoming A Citizen Activist and Student Power, Democracy and Revolution in the Sixties. He is the founding board chair of Local Progress, a national network of over 1,300 progressive municipal officials.

Subscribe to Licata’s newsletter , Citizenship Politics.

How Trump Would Destroy the Deep State

Jan. 6 footage had been displayed in the background before former president Donald Trump told his campaign rally in Waco, Tex., in March 2023, who to expel from the government.

Former President Donald Trump’s first major rally for the 2024 presidential race was held in Waco, Texas. It was a fitting stage for him to attack the evil deep state. 

Trump, always the shrewd marketer, knew the message he wanted in starting his presidential campaign:  you cannot trust the government because the deep state controls it. Trump told a crowd of his supporters in Waco that “Either the deep state destroys America, or we destroy the deep state,”

It probably was not by coincidence that he held his rally on the 30th anniversary of a deadly fight between federal agents and inhabitants of a compound headed by the anti-government cult leader David Koresh.

An attempt to deliver an arrest warrant and conduct a search dragged on for a 51-day siege, ending with a fire that killed 82 occupants, 28 of whom were children. Four federal agents were also shot and killed.

The tragic incident has gone down in right-wing lore as a standoff between freedom-loving Americans and violent deep-state government oppressors. Although, contrary to lore, a jury of Texas citizens absolved the government of wrongdoing in a suit stemming from the siege. An independent counsel also concluded that federal agents were not responsible for the deaths of the inhabitants in the fire. 

So, what is the deep state? The belief that a secret group controls the federal government goes back to the John Birch Society of the fifties. The Birchers knew that insiders were controlling the FBI and CIA to advance the global interests of Wall Street and industrial elites and communists. 

Going forward seventy years, that belief gained popularity through Stephen K. Bannon, the executive chairman of the right-wing nationalist Breitbart News. He became Trump’s chief strategist when Trump entered the White House. Bannon’s first public speech was before the Conservative Political Action Conference. He said that the “corporatist globalist media” was “crying and weeping” on election night. And that everything is going according to Trump’s plan: the “deconstruction of the administrative state” has just begun. 

Describing a government as a “deep state” is not a legal term, but defining it as an “administrative state” would be. Academics generally describe an administrative state as government agencies able to write, judge, and enforce their laws.

When Banon spoke of deconstructing the administrative state, he was not entering the field of “conspiracy theories” that gave birth to the deep state. He was articulating a legal effort to strip away the liberal institutions Congress had allowed to develop using administrative law.

For example, administrative law created the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a product of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and administrative law also created the Environmental Protection Agency, which grew out of environmental protection acts. 

Various government agencies, such as the Social Security Administration or the Office of Medicare and Medicaid Services, are exercising power to fulfill social-democratic or social welfare goals. 

Jurists ideologically could oppose these programs by only allowing agencies to create them with prior, direct Congressional approval. Consequently, those judges would be inclined to overturn the Republican-dominated 1984 Supreme Court decision in the Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council case, which expanded the powers of federal agencies. 

Chevron allowed agencies to determine how to execute a law to cover a particular problem not explicitly described by Congress. The agency’s decisions must be reasonable and can be challenged in the courts. However, the Chevron-initiated judicial deference principle limits the courts’ authorityJeremy W. Peters of the New York Times notes that it says judges must defer to reasonable interpretations of ambiguous statutes by federal agencies because agencies have more expertise than judges and are more accountable to voters.

Throughout our republic’s history, the established norm and expectation was that the court system, with the Supreme Court making the final determination, could check an expansion of executive and Congressional powers. However, presidents usually appoint jurists to be confirmed by Congress sympathetic to that president’s political philosophy.

In 2018, Donald F. McGahn II, Trump’s White House counsel and architect of the administration’s judicial selection process, said they were pursuing a different judicial selection process than in past years. They had a “coherent plan” to pair the administration’s deregulation orders with judicial nominees opposed to the federal bureaucracy’s growing power. 

To aid in selecting jurists, the Trump administration followed the guidance of Lee Liberman Otis, a founder of the free-market conservative Federalist Society. That organization was founded on an ideology opposed to government regulation of businesses and public services, such as public schools.  

Although members of the FS were federal judges before Trump, his appointments resulted in a Republican-appointed super majority of Supreme Court justices being members of the Federalist Society. Coming before the Supreme Court this year is the Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo case, with the potential end of Chevron deference as the only issue to be argued. 

Even if the SCOTUS decision leaves some flexibility for agencies to carry out their lawful mission, if Trump is elected president, he will keep his promise to end or dramatically limit agencies’ ability to administer the law. Their diminished authority will create a power vacuum in determining how American’s freedoms will be protected from abuse by the most influential groups, be they businesses or religions. 

Those with the most political power and financial resources will fill that vacuum. Their interests will not leave much room for the welfare of working Americans to be represented by non-partisan civil servants. 

The loyalty of civil servants is what Trump aims to control. Trump is one of many presidents who has been frustrated with the legions of federal bureaucrats that run the day-to-day operations of providing government services. A president who wants to make dramatic fundamental changes will find resistance because civil servants seek consistency by following set protocols as presidents come and go.

Given that traditional tension, all presidents must compromise to achieve some of their objectives and maintain a functioning government. The question with Trump as president, known for not backing down, is how far he will push this conflict. Could he permanently alter our government institutions’ functions by serving as president and not the public? It’s possible. 

Just before Trump’s first term ended, he signed the order “Creating Schedule F in the Excepted Service,” removing employment protections from career officials whose jobs were deemed linked to policymaking. Known as Schedule F, President Biden rescinded it. However, Trump has vowed to immediately reinstitute it if elected again. 

He is preparing to replace those fired civil servants with new loyal federal employees from a database of willing foot soldiers recruited, trained, and compiled by the Conservative Partnership Institute, in which Trump Chief-of-Staff Mark Meadows is a senior partner.

The difference between Biden’s and Trump’s approach is whether a president wants to sustain a non-partisan civil service or turn it into a group personally loyal to him. Hence, Trump’s attack on the federal government repeats a theme he established at his Waco rally. The government is the enemy because it’s not accountable to him as president, while he ignores that accountability should be to the nation’s established rules of law. 

Trump’s supporters argue that Schedule F would only be used against poor performers and people who actively impeded the elected president’s agenda. However, Trump states on his campaign website to “find and remove the radicals who have infiltrated the federal Department of Education.” 

Trump would surely want to identify radicals in other departments. Trump told his rally in Michigan, “We will drive out the globalists. We will cast out the communists, Marxists, and fascists. And we will throw off the sick political class that hates our country.” 

Trump, quick to accuse others of conducting a witch hunt when they seek justice in the court system against his actions, would appear to enjoy conducting one of his own across the entire federal workforce.

But does he have the authority to engage in such a sweeping action, or is this just a nightmare conjured up in the minds of liberals?

His allies are already planning to use legal arguments shared by conservative jurists who would approve his presidential edicts. It is not just subjecting 50,000 civil employees to scrutiny and possible dismissal. More intrusive is his intention that the 24 independent agencies, like the Federal Election Commission and the Federal Reserve System, submit their actions to the White House for review. 

He had previously drafted such an executive order, which his Justice Department approved, but the order was never issued because Trump’s closest staff members expressed concerns. White House staff raising doubts about Trump’s judgment may be missing in the future, given that on his campaign website, he promised to bring those agencies “under presidential authority.”

Trump also said on his campaign website that he had a constitutional right to impound funds and would restore a practice that Richard Nixon attempted but was stopped by Congress. 

Trump’s plan to deconstruct the administrative state, referred to as the deep state at his campaign rallies, will employ a legal strategy, not an insurrection mob, to execute his plans.  His legal cornerstone would be the Unitary Executive theory, a concept conjured by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in his dissenting opinion in the Chevron case.

This theory extrapolates Article II of the Constitution to mean that everything not designated as legislative or judicial power must be executive power. Since the executive power vests in the President, that person must be able to execute all the laws of the United States outside of everything that’s not explicitly given to Congress or the judiciary in the Constitution. 

Going down this path could lead to something more than being a “dictator for just one day.” Or so it seems since in 2019, he declared to a cheering crowd, “I have an Article 2, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president.”

If elected, Trump’s effort to destroy the deep state will not be accomplished overnight. Instead, expect a rollercoaster of legal challenges in the courts while Congress and the President circle each other like two Sumo wrestlers trying to push the other out of the nation’s most important circle of power. 

In the meantime, we would experience a long period of dysfunctional governance and declining trust in our democratic republic through our public’s loss of faith in democracy as the best means to address their basic needs. Hence, we will see more citizens yearning for autocratic rule. That’s starting from a current base of 26% of Americans who score high on the scale of right-wing authoritarianism.

It’s time that all citizens begin to think about what kind of society they want to live in after this November’s elections. 

If you liked this piece, please email it to five friends who might like to give some thought to this issue. 

Nick Licata is the author of Becoming A Citizen Activist and Student Power, Democracy and Revolution in the Sixties. He is the founding board chair of Local Progress, a national network of over 1,300 progressive municipal officials.

Subscribe to Licata’s newsletter , Citizenship Politics.

CP – Trump’s Personality Will Deliver a Perilous Second Term – for Everyone


The Atlantic hosted twenty-four liberal writers to comment on a possible second term for former President Donald Trump. Covering autocracy to science, they saw a future reminiscent of the Roman Republic’s decline as it slid into chaos and collapsed.

The essayists touched on three recurring themes: Trump’s personality, objectives, and legacy.  These themes also buttress other commentaries on Trump’s past and future impact on America. I believe that Trump’s personality disrupts our society’s normative behavior more than his political policies.

Mainstream media critics often cite Trump’s personality when describing how he implements policies, such as being heartless by separating children from their parents when they cross the Mexican border seeking asylum. 

Still, the conservatives he chose for the most critical positions in his administration have been some of Trump’s severest critics. David Frum, who leads off the collective of Atlantic’s writers, notes that his first secretary of state called him a “fucking moron” not capable of learning how government works. 

For instance, according to the authors of A Very Stable Genius, “the universal value of the Trump administration was loyalty,” not to the country or its laws but to him personally. For example, he wanted to eliminate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act because US companies, like real estate developers, such as himself, were not allowed to bribe foreign governments to secure special services. He asked his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson “to get rid of that law.” Tillerson said he’d have to work with Congress. Unsatisfied, Trump turned to his most loyal senior policy advisor, Stephen Miller, to draft an Executive Order repealing the law.

In reflecting on his personality, his second chief of staff said he was “the most flawed person I’ve ever met in my life,” and his dishonesty was “just astounding.” The above insights seem to be the same as those of his 44 former Cabinet secretaries. McKay Coppins of NBC reported that only four of them endorsed him as a presidential candidate.

The Social & Behavioral Sciences Encyclopedia defines “personality traits as persistent underlying tendencies to behave in particular ways in particular situations.” It is more quirky or flexible than what we think of as character. 

Liberals are blind to ignore that Trump’s “quirky” personality does attract strong support from more than a third of the nation. And his personality has made him the leading presidential candidate for Republicans for the third straight election. 

One of Trump’s longtime friends defended Trump, saying that Trump “has genius characteristics… Like all savants, he has edges… he has a kind of brilliance and charisma that is unique, rare, and captivating, although at times misunderstood.” 

Trump doesn’t leave much room for his attitudes to be misunderstood in how he leads. After he fired his national security adviser, John Bolton, by a tweet an hour before Bolton was to appear in a press conference with the secretary of state, Trump quipped about how he runs his administration. “It’s very easy actually to work with me. You know why it’s easy? Because I make all the decisions.”

He will make the most important national decisions if elected to a new term. The most important one on his mind is getting revenge for those who blocked his interests. Unlike White House advisors and cabinet officials, he won’t be able to fire citizens who are not his employees or contestants on his former TV show, The Apprentice.

According to Atlantic writer Baron Gellman, Trump has openly talked about taking revenge on his enemies, like President Joe Biden, against whom Trump would deploy federal prosecutors. Previously, Trump suggested that Hillary Clinton be thrown in jail, but he lost interest after she lost the election. With presidential powers back in his hands, limiting his support to right-wing House Republicans to impeach Biden is not enough because, apparently, he’d like to see Biden in jail this time. 

What kind of personality is focused on having the power to exact revenge on anyone who offended you? Psychiatrists describe an affliction that affects around 5.3% percent of the U.S. population; it’s called narcissistic personality disorder NPD. Among the traits that define that behavior are a grandiose sense of self and fantasies of unlimited success. Revenge is narcissistic behavior to achieve unlimited success.

Health professionals urge caution in planting the NPD label on anyone acting narcissistic in certain situations. The difference between narcissism as a personality trait and clinical narcissistic personality is how persistently it shows over time and across all situations. 

In assessing Trump being in office again, people need to consider how he has consistently exhibited narcissistic traits that will reshape or ignore our established public policies and laws. Like election laws. His fantasies of unlimited success align with Atlantic writer David A. Graham’s observation that the former president has described himself as a “very proud election denier.” 

He has repeated for years that the 2020 presidential election was not legitimate, despite the highest elected state official from both parties certifying the ballot counts in every state and confirming that Joe Biden won the election and Donald Trump lost. His attorneys, including his appointed attorney general, had personally informed Trump that there was no evidence that the election outcome would have differed.

In other words, Trump created a fantasy world, and most Republicans have followed him into that world, where he promises to pursue vengeance if elected as president again. 

Atlantic writer Ronald Brownstein writes that during his 2024 campaign, he promised to deliver “retribution” for his supporters. From the beginning of his current run, Graham notes that Trump “has a record of repeatedly threatening and intimidating judges, witnesses, prosecutors, and even the family of prosecutors involved in the cases against him.” His sense of omnipotence extends to saying that “his legal opponents will be consigned to mental asylums if he’s reelected.”

A grandiose sense of self is another trait that defines NDP behavior. It can be presented as a charming and entertaining personality, as Trump elicits more laughter than any other presidential candidate in his last three races. 

Why is that? Because the crowd, and he consistently attracts large crowds, loves his performance of making fun of others, calling them outrageous names. And then there is his smirky smile with remarks that invite his audience to share in his disbelief of the ideas and facts that science, government, and historians deliver. Those experts speak the language of the elites, those who think they know better than Trump’s audience. 

Atlantic writer Michael Schuman recognizes that “he won’t change his personality” regarding his admiration of authoritarian leaders. China’s Xi may become more hostile to American overseas interests, but Trump knows that he is superior to Xi and can flatter him into being nicer to us. Trump believes he understands them because he knows what powerful leaders want; it is just like what he wants – more power.

And the authoritarian leaders likewise know how to flatter Trump to get what they want.

Schuman believes that Russian President Vladimir Putin manipulated Trump by telling him that his ideas were brilliant and warning that he couldn’t trust anyone in his administration to execute them. Trump publicly refuted his own appointed Justice Department for indicting twelve Russian intelligence officers for hacking Democratic emails. He said his logic was that Putin told him they didn’t.

Trump also considers himself smarter than his contemporaries and previous American presidents. He said someone told him that “Thomas Jefferson was the smartest one ever. I don’t think so…  frankly I think my IQ — people tell me it is tremendous; doctors can’t believe it.”

No one is excluded from overshadowing Trump’s greatness, including the Republican Party’s iconic founder, President Abraham Lincoln. On January 6, Trump suggested Lincoln could have avoided the Civil War. If Trump had been president, he said he could have avoided an unnecessary bloody war through “negotiation.” I’m sure Trump wasn’t lying. He truly believes that, as he said previously, “Only I can fix it,” whatever the problem.  

Trump’s grandiose sense of self makes it easy for him to reject or seek information that contradicts his beliefs. His insistence that he could have negotiated away our Civil War woefully ignores the fact that Lincoln supported the first proposed 13th Amendment (called the Corwin Amendment) to save the Union before the Civil War began. It would have shielded slavery within the existing slave states from a federal constitutional amendment process and abolition or interference by Congress. Only a handful of states ratified it. And yet, what more could Trump have offered the South? Probably, he’d just let the South leave the Union and call it a victory because he avoided a war. 

Trump’s statement on Lincoln is a prime indicator of a future president who will appoint his advisors and the most powerful government officials based on who is more loyal to him than to the nation or the real world. This time, he will not make the mistake of picking the most intelligent conservatives to serve him but instead will select the most servile conservatives. These are the types of officials that serve kings, tyrants, and dictators. 

Luckily, Trump said he would only be a “dictator for a day” to build a wall and drill. Acting on his belief that he got elected on the public promise to be a dictator to fulfill his stated goals, he could try to ignore budget constraints, congress, and the courts. If blocked, he will attack the people and institutions that deny his public mandate for change. With that attitude, the nation will begin a constitutional crisis during Trump’s first week in the Oval Office. 

The institutional chaos that he provokes will either splinter the Republican Party, or it will continue to transform into the MAGA Party led by Trump. 

Trump could follow Putin’s past political practice and push for a constitutional amendment or another way to allow him to run again for president. It has such a low probability of happening that the two-dozen thoughtful Atlantic writers have not imagined such a Trump move. 

Still, how many predicted that Trump would demand Vice President Mike Pence stop Congress from certifying Biden’s election because it was stolen from him? And that a thousand pro-Trump rioters chanting “Hang Pence” would storm the capitol looking for him? Trump calls the protestors arrested for insurrection “heroes,” and he will pardon them if elected president. Could laws again be flouted when they don’t yield to Trump’s will?

All Americans, whether Democrats, Republicans, or independents, could find themselves living in a republic subject to the intentional chaos Trump ignites in his second presidency. That is the message voters need to hear.

If you found this essay helpful in understanding what may happen after November 2024, please pass it on to another to begin a conversation with them.

Seattle’s Socialist Alternative: a Marxist’s puzzle of what to do when you win an election?

After being a Seattle Councilmember for a decade, Kshama Sawant will retire from public office at the end of December. In January 2023, Sawant announced she would not run again. This came eight months before the 2023 primary to select a new councilmember from Seattle’s District 3, widely seen as the most liberal district.  

Something was missing from her announcement. No one, not the media, Councilmember Sawant, and her political party, Socialist Alternative, mentioned it. There was no reference to SA running another candidate for her seat or any seat in the next round of council primaries. 

For a decade, Seattle had experienced having a self-declared Marxist on their city council. Not someone accused of being a Marxist, as MAGA folks and like-minded Republicans accuse anyone pursuing a progressive agenda. No, this was someone proudly declaring themself as Marxist. 

In this case, a public official who believed, as did her Socialist Alternative party, that Karl Marx’s theories were correct. The entire world would eventually have a stateless socialist society run by the workers, not the owners. There would be no private property accumulating profits. 

It was an odd omission for Sawant or SA not to announce another SA candidate to be running. That’s because Sawant always emphasized that she was working for SA’s political objectives, not pushing her personal political beliefs. 

In her announcement, she emphasized the importance of her party. She said, “My office and Socialist Alternative have been successful in fighting for renters and the working class.” And, “The reason I am not running for office is because we believe that work needs to be continued in and outside of Seattle.” In other words, SA would still be working in Seattle to make changes, presumably in the same manner that its most successful and visible member had done. 

For the entire period of Sawant’s term and even before as a candidate, she never sought to be a prima donna. Although critical of her, the media still loved her as an object of interest. She received more coverage than any other CM. In the last three decades, she surpassed all past ones but one term, independent populist CM Charlie Chong.

What is the takeaway from SA not engaging in electoral city politics when it successfully won a council seat and helped shape its policies? Is it because of her Marxism or her messaging? 

Marxists’ Record in Winning Elections 

A Marxist public official is even scarcer than a liberal Republican in American politics. But they are present in other democracies. Major democracies such as Spain, Belgium, Greece, Portugal, and France are represented in the European Parliament by Communist Parties that ascribe to some Marxist version of socialism. 

But there is no list of self-declared Marxists in public office in the US. An approximate measurement might be the number of Communist Party members elected to office. Currently, there is one in a small Pennsylvania Borough Council. The last Communist Party member in office was 73 years ago on New York City’s Council. 

However, the fear of Communists in government is a trope that Republicans occasionally drag out. In 2012, Republican Congressman Allen West told an audience in Jensen Beach that “he’s heard” up to 80 members of the U.S. House of Representatives are Communist Party members. Later, his office backtracked, saying he was referring to Democrat’s Congressional Progressive Caucus because the Communist Party publicly referred to it as an ally. This was a one-way assertion from them, perhaps because of their mutual support for raising the minimum wage. 

Socialists, by definition, are not necessarily Marxists; some are, and some are not, likewise with socialist organizations. In the U.S., Socialists in public office are much more common than Marxists, although still minuscule in numbers. While at least 30 organizations identify themselves as socialist in the U.S., only the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) has a substantial membership. As of July 2023, they had 78,000 members, down from an all-time high of 95,000. By comparison, 

They have representation in Congress and state governments. Three endorsed DSA members are serving in Congress: Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Cori Bush. Senator Bernie Sanders is a self-declared Democratic Socialist but not a member of the DSA. And 51 state lawmakers are also DSA members. They comprise 0.9 percent of Congress and 0.7 percent of all state legislators. 

However, considering the number of members in Congress, DSA’s influence is limited, particularly in comparison to the Republican’s hard-right Freedom Caucus, which has, by the most recent estimates, about 70 members. Unlike SA and the Freedom House caucus, DSA is an open membership group with publicly released membership numbers. It’s also far more diverse than either group, having at least five different caucuses, ranging from libertarians to Marxists. 

The World of Socialist Alternative

Socialist Alternative is a closed-membership, dues-paying organization requiring prospective members to pass an interview before being allowed in to ensure that they agree with the organization’s political beliefs. That restricted membership is both a strength and a weakness.

Having screened membership allowed SA to select someone to be a candidate who would stay within their agenda. It also gave them a disciplined organization to execute a better ground game than any other candidate to get the vote out and win an election no one expected. Sawant’s initial election to one of America’s largest cities saw The Times of India, the world’s most widely circulated English-language daily, announce her victory. 

While not all Marxist organizations are the same, most use democratic-centralism to make decisions. Lenin’s Bolsheviks used it to form Russia’s Communist Party. Seattle’s SA is in line with that format, having a Seattle Executive Committee and, just below it, a City Committee electing its members.  

Like in all organizations, communication between their different levels is often fraught with questionable processes for reaching a final decision. A memo from a CC member to the SEC outlines her concerns: “where proposals are often presented either as fully agreed on by the SEC, not at all, or in an ambiguous manner where it’s unclear if the proposal is from an individual or the SEC as a whole.” This memo illustrates that Marxist groups are no better than capitalist corporations in having internal communication problems. At the same time, critics of those organizations assume they operate far more effectively than they do. 

Seattle’s Experience with a Marxist 

The ultimate weakness of an organization’s tightly closed leadership system is that it limits beliefs and information outside its control. Hence, leaders quickly discount input from others as invalid or unworthy of evaluation. This is the system that Kshama Sawant took with her to the Seattle City Council. Those familiar with how Sawant became a candidate insist that she became one out of an obligation and her desire to further SA’s mission to create a mass working-class party. 

She articulated that position in SA’s February 2021 magazine, explaining why she and other members were joining the non-Marxist Democratic Socialists of America, and, by extension, it could be used for why she joined the city council. She wrote the goal of SA’s members was “to advance the Marxist ideas that will be necessary to win both immediate gains in the present crisis and a final victory over capitalism’s exploitation and oppression.” That’s a heavy lift, mainly if one’s day job is to mend the fences in her seven-square-mile city council district. 

It is also a task made more difficult since she considered her fellow city council members to be part of “the corporate Democratic Party” and would not “hesitate to ramp up its attacks on socialists and working-class movements.” Of course, the same would be true of Republicans if Seattle had any on its council. 

Here is the conundrum that Marxists faced who got voted into local public positions. Their goal of dismantling the market economy and its political benefits to those with the most significant wealth and power is not a daily concern to constituents concerned with their city’s living conditions. They want their community to be safe and pleasant, their transportation system to operate efficiently, and their utilities and housing to be affordable and available. A string of other more seemingly mundane services would follow.

Seattle’s Socialist Alternative party was able to help push the city council to pursue and pass some efficient progressive legislation. However, the council had already gone down that road by passing one of the nation’s few Paid Sick Leave ordinances for all workers in the city without Sawant on the council. 

Once on the council, Sawant’s Socialist Alternative put an initiative forward to adopt a $15 minimum wage immediately and not have it adopted incrementally over some years. The mayor’s office and the business community feared that the initiative could pass, so they were much inclined to work for a quick solution.

That threat provided leverage for the progressives on the council to get the minimum wage increased to $15 in three years for all big businesses and longer for smaller ones. Seattle’s legislation did have a national impact. In a few years, dozens of other cities began increasing minimum wages, and states followed. 

Socialist Alternative, with Sawant’s office at their disposal, was also able to push the council to pass pro-renter legislation and ban police use of tear gas and rubber bullets as “crowd control weapons.” Sawant and SA labeled a payroll expense tax bill as the Amazon Tax since Amazon would pick up about a quarter of the tax because of its vast number of employees working in Seattle. The bill passed the council, but they repealed it a month later due to heavy opposition from businesses and some construction unions. Sawant voted against the repeal.

Two years later, Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda sponsored a new employer tax on companies with annual payrolls above $7 million. Named JumpStart Seattle, it was based on the number of highly paid employees rather than total employees. Sawant would not join the other five council members in cosponsoring it.  However, despite the new legislation falling short of the revenue that the Amazon Tax would have provided, Sawant voted for it.

That reluctance to compromise is at the heart of why SA and other Marxist parties that engage in electoral politics have a difficult philosophical belief to overcome. Half-measure victories are not considered so much as victories as sustaining a corrupt political and economic system and hence forestalling the rise of a revolutionary mass working-class movement. For Marxists, according to SA, “socialism builds toward building a classless society based on solidarity and equality, with an economy run and democratically planned, where there is no capitalist class.” 

It’s a goal that has yet to be achieved anywhere. Trying to get there through local elections seems too tiny a brick to lay down. This may explain why even the most successful Marxist party in recent decades has only run two other candidates for city councils, one each in Minneapolis and Boston. Both lost.  Others may have run, but there is little leftist coverage of their efforts. Even vanilla socialists, derisively referred to as reformers by Marxists, have difficulty getting elected to public office. 

But when you have an organization that uses democratic-centralism, which either the left or the right can use, winning a public office means that office serves a party’s political agenda.

In an internal SA discussion paper, this approach was made clear. Citing resolutions​ ​from past​ ​ ​Congresses​ ​of the​​Communist​​ International,​​ SA members in any public legislative body must subordinate all council action to the activity of their outside party. The organization of the council SA faction must also be in the hands of their party’s central committee.

The most disastrous measure for SA was to carry the “defund the police” banner. However, the council ended up only slightly trimming the police’s massive budget, not cutting it anywhere near the slogan’s 50 percent. Nevertheless, SA convinced the public that the council would axe the police department. That resulted in a well-funded conservative backlash to toss out incumbent council members.

A Legislator is Not a Revolutionary 

To the chagrin of Marxists, having one or two elected legislators at any level of government will not result in any significant institutional change, let alone a revolutionary workers’ movement.

As in Seattle, it may result in legislation broadening services and redistributing the tax burden of providing those services to those who can best afford to pay for them. That is how democracies work. Marxists label existing democracies as bourgeois because they do not upend the market economy and oust those most benefiting from it. 

However, the democratic legislative process is slow and meandering. Quick decisions are rare. Those seeking swift, radical changes can be worn down. Sawant cited being one council member of nine as one reason to retire. Socialist Alternative will likely not run other candidates in the future, just like their national party hasn’t run candidates in other major cities since Sawant won in 2015. 

Socialist Alternative Marxists appear to be more comfortable focusing on national issues, not sitting on city councils where they are expected to respond to constituent issues that lack sharp class conflicts. With Sawant’s departure from the council, SA created a new program called “Workers Strike Back,” which Sawant was tapped to lead. It will focus on national political battles, directly organizing workers into a mass socialist movement. The dream lives on.  

Two Final Notes

I worked with Sawant as a fellow council member for the last two years of my eighteen years on the council. Despite her public persona as a rabble-rouser and a constant critic of the council, I found her warm and honest in a one-on-one setting. She was open about her beliefs and intentions without pursuing personal gain. Win or lose; we jointly supported progressive bills. And, while my direct contact with other members of SA was minimal, I didn’t see how they would financially or socially benefit from the positions they took. Their motivation was to promote the greater good. 

Five years ago, independent journalist Kevin Schofield dove into Socialist Alternative’s internal documents. The information was published in his newsletter, SCC Insight. I found it helpful in understanding SA’s workings and contributing to this piece. 

If you like this piece, email it to others. 
And if you can, become a patron or make a one-time donation to help me reach others. – Thanks, Nick
Nick Licata is the author of Becoming A Citizen Activist and Student Power, Democracy and Revolution in the Sixties. He is the founding board chair of Local Progress, a national network of over 1,300 progressive municipal officials.

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Surging Immigration has led to right-wing governments

In the last five years, populist right-wing parties have been elected to rule or effectively control major legislatures in these six stable European democracies: Italy, Netherlands, Slovakia, Spain, and Sweden. In every instance, the ruling liberal and conservative party coalitions lost seats and the control of their legislative bodies. 

If you can, please become a patron or make a one-time donation to help me reach others. – Thanks, Nick

Opposition to what was characterized as “excessive” immigration was a consistent theme in the rise of right-wing governments. Other issues, varying by country, also contributed to their victories, but all parties trumpeted a strong anti-immigration message.

European right-wing parties win by running anti-immigrant messages.

Spain’s Vox Party has just become its third-biggest party. After 42 years of government controlled by the center-right Popular Party and the center-left Socialist Workers’ Party coalitions, support from the far-right wing Vox Party is now necessary to pass national policies. Vox strongly opposes Muslim immigration, even though the number of actual Spanish Muslims is relatively low. Nevertheless, Vox ran a video of an imaginary news report on the imposition of sharia law in southern Spain and the conversion of the cathedral of Cordoba into a mosque.

Italy’s recent elections saw the Brothers of Italy emerge this fall and have their leader, Giorgia Meloni, become the Prime Minister. She is militantly anti-migrant, calling for a naval blockade against illegal migrants and saying the battle against immigration is “an epochal battle for Italy and Europe.”

Holland’s anti-immigration Party for Freedom (PVV) won the most seats of any party this November. All four parties of the incumbent coalition government suffered substantial losses. Geert Wilders, leader of PVV, says Holland should “stop the immigration to our societies – because we have had more than enough Islam in our societies.” He called for “a total halt to accepting asylum-seekers.”

Sweden’s far-right party, Sweden Democrats (SD), became the second largest party in their legislature after the 2022 general election. The country’s ruling center-right coalition needs SD to stay in power. In return, SD wants to exclude Sweden from the European Union’s process of relocating asylum refugees. Their party leader, Jimmie Akesson, says that Sweden’s “extreme immigration policies” have “shattered” Swedish society.

Slovakia’s right-wing populist SMER party won the largest vote in their October general elections, making its leader, Robert Fico, the country’s Prime Minister. He calls the EU’s migration policies a failure and says that the majority of EU citizens fully disagree with them.

An anti-immigrant message facilitates a broader political agenda.

Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign attacked migration as mostly illegal or unnecessary, and his subsequent victory was seen as a model for other right-wing leaders to emulate. Spain’s Vox leader even ran under the banner of “Make Spain Great Again.” 

This recent round of right-wing victories seems to have energized Trump to rev up his attack on immigration. Will it drive enough conservative populist votes for him to win in 2024? He told the Republican Jewish Coalition that on day one of his new administration, he would revive the ban on seven Arab nations to stop terrorists from entering the U.S.  

However, Trump did not include Saudi Arabia, which provided 15 of the 19 men affiliated with the Islamist jihadist organization al-Qaeda that executed the September 11 attacks on America. None of the other terrorists from that attack came from the seven countries being banned. 

Just like Trump’s banning of Muslim immigrants misses the mark in providing effective security, so too is his attacking South American immigrants as conveyors of Fentanyl. The Libertarian-conservative Cato Institute notes that the Mexican Border Patrol found only 0.02 percent of migrants illegally crossing possessed fentanyl. That would be 279 out of 1.8 million migrants.

Given the above facts, it’s evident that banning Mexican or Arab immigrants to make America safe does not work. Which begs the question: What are these demands supposed to accomplish?  The answer can be found in every country where citizens vote right-wing parties into power. Such demands focus on a visible enemy to blame for the public’s discontent with their political and social conditions. 

Trump and the European right-wing parties have generated popular support by championing easy solutions and a clearly defined group responsible for their problems. 

Within a democratic republic, this has been a winning strategy for winning votes regardless of the lack of proof in identifying the enemy’s guilt. 

Stopping the surge of immigrants has been at the forefront of this strategy in these countries.  There are accompanying messages highlighting that families are being ignored or threatened. All the right-wing electoral victories in Europe and the U.S. blame the established parties for endangering families. Protecting family values means passing laws that strip away the individual’s right to abort births, change their sexual identity, marry a person of the same gender, or practice a non-Christian religion. 

There are ample quotes from the leaders of these parties and politicians who lament the growth of liberal policies threatening family values.  In the past, these liberal policies were often accepted by conservatives as necessary changes to protect individual rights. However, the opposition to these policies has grown among conservatives and independents.  This is due to media campaigns buttressing radical actions to guarantee that a nation’s traditional Christian family values are not displaced. 

For example, liberals are blamed for permitting school libraries to carry books and teachers to teach topics concerning sex, gender, and racial issues. Extracts from new and classical schoolbooks are used to show how the youth are being corrupted by writing about these issues in a secular manner without referencing moral values.

The most recent example is Florida Governor DeSantis’s growing list of books banned in public schools. According to a new report by the national free speech group PEN America, Florida has more than double the bans of No. 2 Texas. DeSantis defends these bans as protecting students from “woke indoctrination in schools.”

The right-wing populist movements begin with opposing migration but also imbed the protection of Christian values, and the third element is identifying the protection of personal freedoms being dependent on protecting a free-market capitalist economy from government intervention. Every one of these movements attacks government interference that hinders the freedom of businesses to prosper.

In the case of Italy, Georgia Meloni, leader of the Brothers of Italy, suggests that the government colludes with corporations and financial speculators to initiate “wokeism.” She believes big businesses make money from wokeism while the government expands its control over its citizens.  

Each of the right-wing political movements identifies three evils that are ruining their wholesome, tradition-bound societies. First, migration reduces the services and security of the current residents. Second, Christian family values are being weakened by emphasizing individual rights that often conflict with those values. Third, the expansion of government leads to families, communities, and businesses losing their freedom to exercise their traditional rights and advantages. 

These right-wing populist concerns are not undemocratic in themselves. However, frustration in resolving these concerns tips the public toward a more authoritarian solution, such as concentrating power in the government’s executive office. Popular support builds for wanting a leader who halts societal changes and returns the country to a prior time when these evils did not exist.

We are seeing in the rise of right-wing populist movements demanding political power a conflict between their demands to reverse societal changes and the nature of democratic institutions. Democracies move slowly in making radical adjustments, whether to the left or the right.  These movements seek to halt the government from carrying out its function to deliberate and compromise objectives from competing social groups and institutional organizations. That is a slow and tedious exercise. 

Manipulating cultural conflicts benefits those who want fewer government regulations.

Lastly, one group takes advantage of the far-right populist movements to achieve their own agenda: those with the greatest wealth concentration. On one hand, they do not seek radical changes because it could disrupt the marketplace and endanger their investments. On the other hand, they can use the leverage of this large voting constituency to trim government regulations that restrict their profits.

The wealthiest sector has no practical affinity for Evangelical or Fundamentalist Christians; in fact, they may personally be secularists. But they are willing to fund them to the extent that they help shrink the government’s oversight over businesses or wealthy investors.  Case in point, we see Christian Fundamentalist politicians, like House Speaker Johnson, striping funds from the IRS to collect tax evasion from the most affluent, as I have previously described in Eliminate some Tax Laws.

Dismissing discussions and rushing to unsupported judgments will curtail citizens’ constitutional rights. The problem of immigration must be resolved. That will necessitate some dramatic compromises from both sides of the political spectrum. Unless Democrats remove this issue from the clutches of right-wing Republicans, they will lose elections in the fall of this coming year. 

I have written about the challenges the Democrats face in Biden Must Resolve the Immigration Crisis But, a further exploration of what Congress can do is necessary. 

Liberals cannot dismiss the rise of the right-wing populist movements in Europe and the U.S. as a conspiracy of the wealthy few, although they often fund them. Nevertheless, these movements magnify concerns that are already present.  And they must be addressed within the existing democratic laws and institutions. 

Failing that task, the right wing will continue to push for overturning the democratic norms of tolerating diversity in thought, ethnicity, and personal practices. It will take pragmatic and bold leadership to halt this slide into a society that will not be seen as a land of the free. 

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Nick Licata is the author of Becoming A Citizen Activist and Student Power, Democracy and Revolution in the Sixties. He is the founding board chair of Local Progress, a national network of over 1,300 progressive municipal officials.
And if you can, become a patron or make a one-time donation to help me reach others. – Thanks, Nick

Eliminate some tax laws, not IRS funding, to avoid shutdowns

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And if you can, become a patron or make a one-time donation to help me reach others. – Thanks, Nick

Republicans lean on government shutdowns as a strategic tool.

This month, the federal government was once again threatened with another shutdown. From November 1995 until today, there have been five shutdowns, with Republicans controlling the House and the Senate for four. This time is no different; the Republicans control the House, and we face another shutdown.

While two of the past shutdowns were explicitly focused on either dismantling Obama Care or halting the construction of a massive wall on the Mexican border, the underlying discussion concerned how we can best spend public funds to avoid a deeper debt burden. 

Although the Republican Party mantra is to shrink government spending, NewsMax columnist Paul deLespinasse wrote, “Republican enthusiasm for reducing the deficit disappears when Republicans occupy the White House. They happily voted to increase the debt limit three times during the Trump administration while increasing the national debt by enacting large tax cuts.” 

Trump’s administration increased the national debt by almost $7.8 trillion. According to Eugene Steuerle, co-founder of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, Trump set a new record. He managed to have his annual deficit become the third-biggest increase of any U.S. presidential administration relative to the size of the economy.

Cutting IRS funding increases government debt.

That Republican approach continued in the first week of November when House Speaker Johnson and the House GOP cut $14.3 billion from IRS funding to pay for an aid package to Israel. It passed the House with all but two Republicans supporting it. Five years ago, Republicans demanded $5.7 billion for Trump’s wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. With Trump’s approval, the government shutdown in 2018 for 34 days — the nation’s most extended shutdown — to get those funds. In the end, Trump got about a third of that amount.  

House Democrat Brendan Boyle (Penn.) argued that Speaker Johnson prioritized “deficit-busting tax giveaways for the wealth over helping Israel.” Boyle then claimed that the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis, which reports to Congress, not the President, found that the IRS cut would “hamstring the IRS’s ability to take on wealthy tax cheats.” The report provided data showing that the IRS cut would increase the deficit by almost $12.5 billion over the next ten years.

The funds being cut were part of the IRS budget increase provided by the Inflation Reduction Act (PL 117-169), which a bipartisan vote of Congress approved. Republicans claim that the supposed 87,000 influx of new agents over ten years would spur an uptick of audits against working-class taxpayers. 

That number of new IRS employees conducting tax audits is suspect, according to Kelley R. Taylor., Kiplinger’s Senior Tax Editor. She wrote that it appeared “to have come from a Treasury Department estimate of the level of hiring needed to maintain IRS efficiency and keep up with retirements and other staff declines.”  The number of new IRS agents to be hired over a decade is unknown. 

In response to the Republican’s attacks on its funding, IRS announced that it was shifting its enforcement efforts to high-income earners, partnerships, and big corporations. Consequently, the agency announced that audit rates would not increase for those earning less than $400,000 annually

The IRS commissioner said they would “hold our wealthiest filers accountable to pay the full amount of what they owe.” He noted that the years of the IRS being underfunded has “led to the lowest audit rate of well-off filers in the agency’s history.”

His statement is backed by the National Taxpayer Advocate’s 2022 annual report to Congress, which detailed how years of cutting the I.R.S.’s budget has crippled its capacity to enforce the tax code. Cracking down on tax cheaters among the wealthiest sends a message that all citizens should follow the tax laws.

However, the tax laws are a major cause of our government debt. 

Congress needs to revoke laws that primarily benefit top-income citizens. ProPublica provides a detailed reviewof how the wealthy avoid taxes on billions in revenue by skirting a century-old law dealing with stock swaps. 

Even though “wash sales” have been forbidden since the 2021 legislation passed, the IRS has not kept up with new accountant strategies. Consequently, the one percent of citizens with more than $10 million get to manipulate outdated stock tax laws that do not apply to wages to shield their income from taxation.

Eliminating inefficient and unfair tax laws is not just a left-wing cause. Conservatives argue against tax laws that distort an open market economy.

The Hoover Institute “promotes personal and economic liberty, free enterprise, and limited government.” In their 1999 essay Welfare for the Well-Off: How Business Subsidies Fleece Taxpayers, they argue that laws providing business subsidies cost American taxpayers nearly $100 billion a year. 

The report noted that “in 1997, the Fortune 500 corporations recorded best-ever earnings of $325 billion, yet incredibly Uncle Sam doled out nearly $100 billion in taxpayer subsidies.” The Institute blames both Republican and Democratic administrations for subsidy programs that undermine the free enterprise system and corrupt the political system.

The Republican’s 2017 tax cut legislation contributed to our national debt growth.

Trump’s 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was passed solely by Republicans. The Senate passed the bill by a party-line vote of 51 to 49. The House passed the bill by a vote of 224 to 201. No House Democrats supported the bill, and 12 Republicans voted no. The law is forecast to raise the federal deficit by hundreds of billions—the Congressional Budget Office estimating $1.9 trillion—over the coming decade.

The new tax law dramatically reduced the corporate tax rate from 40% to 21%, roughly equivalent to the rate paid by US companies’ significant competitors, the European-based multinationals. This argument seemed fair. However, a University of Michigan Law School study on the largest 100 companies based in the US and the European Union in the decade ending in 2010 reveals a severe flaw in this logic. 

The authors note that even though the U.S. rate was ten percentage points higher than the average corporate rate in the European Union, the effective U.S. corporate tax rate was the same or lower in comparing these two groups during that period. 

Two tax laws have significantly increased US corporate profits since 2010. First, the percentage of income paid after tax breaks—among profitable large corporations fell from 16% in 2014 to 9% in 2018 due to paying less taxes. Second, Trump’s tax law did not significantly close major tax breaks. As a result, their effective tax rate is far below what their European competitors are paying in taxes. 

Now corporations and their owners and investors see their incomes rise ever higher, as does the nation’s debt due to less tax revenue. 

Expect another threatened government shutdown at the end of January. 

Speaker Michael Johnson avoided a government shutdown by adopting a proposal that the Republican right-wing Freedom Caucus offered. A two-step continuing resolution (CR) was passed by Congress that continued funding for the 12 appropriation bills but only for a limited period. The bills were divided into two sets. 

Four less controversial appropriations, like covering veterans’ programs, transportation, and agriculture, would come up for a second vote on January 19 to continue their funding. It was a smart move to first vote for the ones that are most likely to get enough Republicans to fund them again. The other eight spending bills containing the most contentious issues of financing the IRS and border security will come for a vote by February 2, when their CR expires.

The Republican hard right has refused to fund the IRS at Biden’s proposed level and is determined to halt the flow of refugees across our southern border. They have not been willing to compromise with the Democrats and prefer a government shutdown if Johnson relies on them to pass a budget. 

The nation will again face the possibility of federal services stopping and the financial markets downgrading our credit. This past shadow of a possible shutdown resulted in Moody’s credit rating agency lowering the U.S. government’s debt to “negative” from “stable,” citing political polarization in Congress. 

Even if we get through the first quarter of next year without a shutdown, the threat will return as our national debt of $33 trillion grows. It will only cease growing when Congress decides that its candy store shelves of tax subsidies for the wealthiest citizens and businesses are finally barren. 

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