How the Far Right is Threatening our Existence

Nearly one in three Americans say it may soon be necessary to take up arms against the government. A majority of Americans say the U.S. government is corrupt and almost a third say it may soon be necessary to take up arms against it, according to a new poll from the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics.

Far-right organizations have identified school boards as essential to winning ideological battles over Critical Race Theory (CRT). Conservatives opposing “woke” culture won seats on the Kansa Board of Education, ousting two Republican members more like Elizabeth Cheney in the same election Kansans overwhelmingly preserved women’s rights to an abortion.

Dangerous groups led by some white supremacists want to control how race is understood and discussed in this country, mostly at the expense of Black and brown communities. And more earnestly, former Trump advisor, Steve Bannon, proudly admitted that “the path to save the nation is very simple–it’s going to go through the school boards,” in an episode of his podcast that aired just this past May.

An uptick in threats to the FBI after it executed a search warrant at former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate is unsettling the political right, with some calling on allies of the former president to tone down their rhetoric.

Barriers have been erected outside the perimeter of the FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., while the FBI and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reportedly issued a joint bulletin Friday warning about spikes in threats that included a bomb threat at FBI headquarters and calls for a “civil war” and “armed rebellion.

Viktor Orban. the Hungarian dictator provides a formula for the permanent power of a minority party. He uses culture wars to fire up the base. Discredit opponents through party-controlled media. Engineer the election rules by controlling their design. Orban has demonstrated that this playbook works — and the Republicans are employing it.  They even had him speak at a recent CPAC conference.

What makes embracing Orban particularly troubling is that  China’s biggest supporter in Europe is Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. He is also an ally of Putin.  If the far-right regains the Presidency, I fear for the future of democracy.

The Confederacy was an ethno-nationalist police state, run by a small number of plantation-owning oligarch families like Robert E. Lee’s, and even being white was no protection from the Confederacy’s brutality.

Although they weren’t enslaved, poor whites had it rough in the Confederate states. They had no real access to due process, and in most cases were prevented from voting if they didn’t own land. Even when they did vote, ballot boxes were stuffed or ballots were burned when elections didn’t turn out the way the oligarchs wanted.

Through the period from the 1830s to the 1860s, as I document in The Hidden History of American Oligarchy, southern plantation owners’ wealth and consolidation of political power radically increased because of the invention of the Cotton Gin that started spreading across the south in the 1820s. 

This new machine could clean as much cotton as 50 hardscrabble white farmers or enslaved people; thus, those few massive plantations that could afford a Gin soon economically and politically dominated the South in the era leading up to the Civil War. 

By manipulating cotton prices, giant plantations ran small white-owned farms out of business. The plantation oligarchs would then buy up the distressed farms and use the poor white farmers’ own indebtedness to force them to work what had previously been their own land as sharecroppers. 

When poor whites protested or tried to fight back, they were often imprisoned on trumped-up charges or just killed and buried in unmarked graves. As Keri Leigh Merritt documents in Masterless Men: Poor Whites and Slavery in the Antebellum South:

“[P]oor whites made particularly inviting targets for a southern legal system dominated by slaveholders… On the eve of secession, slaveholders were still jailing poor whites for small amounts of debt, publicly whipping thieves, and auctioning off debtors and criminals (for their labor) to the highest bidder.

Weisselberg pleaded guilty to 15 separate charges including grand larceny and criminal tax fraud in an indictment filed in New York State Supreme Court, admitting to what authorities described as a 15-year tax evasion scheme for skipping out on taxes due on $1.76 million in income that wasn’t reported to the IRS.

Weisselberg was promised a sentence of five months in New York City’s Rikers Island prison — although that could be shortened to a little over three months — as well as five years’ probation. He will also have to fully repay taxes, penalties, and interest due to the New York City and New York state tax authorities totaling $1,994,321.

Here are five things to know about Weisselberg’s plea deal.

The plea may be a consolation prize

The plea deal from a Trump Organization representative close to the former president may feel like something of a consolation prize for prosecutors who have been trying for a year to get Weisselberg to turn on Trump himself and not just Trump’s company.

Their aim has been to find evidence that the former president engaged in criminal activity, and securing the cooperation of a key Trump lieutenant like Weisselberg for their investigation could have been a step in that direction.

“It’s been widely publicly reported that the DA’s office was aggressively trying to flip Weisselberg against individuals and against Trump in particular, and he obviously held out on that and refused to deliver,” Danya Perry, a former federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York, told The Hill in an interview.

But Weisselberg didn’t roll over. In fact, The New York Times reported that just after the deal was made, The Trump Organization held a birthday party for Weisselberg at Trump Tower.

Legal experts draw a sharp distinction between the sort of plea deal that Weisselberg agreed to and an actual cooperation agreement with federal prosecutors that could have led to much more substantive disclosures about the former president and his business practices.

“He got a plea deal. He did not get a cooperation agreement,” Perry said.

“The case against Donald Trump doesn’t seem to have any life left in it,” Daniel Alonso, who served as chief assistant district attorney under former Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance Jr., told The Hill. “This deal certainly doesn’t mean Trump is going to be prosecuted. It probably means the opposite. It really doesn’t incriminate him.”

There has been a turn of events.  Alan Weisselberg’s plea deal requires him to testify when the Trump Organization faces its own trial in October, and this could turn into a big win for prosecutors this fall as they go after Trump’s core business.

The Trump Organization is going on trial for nine out of the 15 counts brought against Weisselberg himself, including charges of criminal tax fraud, conspiracy, and falsifying business records.

The testimony of Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s former chief financial officer, could make things difficult for the company.

Former assistant United States Attorney Andrew Weissman told The Hill in an interview that Weisselberg’s plea deal is going to make it much harder for the Trump Organization to make its defense.

“Because an organization acts through its people, this is the CFO saying that he did this, and these are not crimes that are unrelated to the organization, and the organization benefited directly from this,” he said.

Legal experts say there’s one big unanswered question about Weisselberg’s deal.

What happens if prosecutors decide that he didn’t “testify truthfully” in the upcoming Trump Organization trial, as his plea deal requires him to do?

But if they ask him questions about how much Trump knew during the trial, and Weisselberg says he didn’t know anything, prosecutors might then say he’s not being fully truthful, and then all bets about the sentencing could be off.

“This is the one open question,” Alonso said. “What happens if he testifies that Trump had no knowledge of these schemes? Would the DA still vouch for Weisselberg’s truthfulness?”

“I’ve never heard of a deal like this,” Alonso said.

Weisselberg was not granted immunity from other crimes 

Both Andrew Weissmann and Danya Perry said they were interested by the fact that Weisselberg was not granted full immunity for any other potential crimes.

“Typically, lawyers negotiate for coverage or immunity for any other crimes he might have committed so they can’t keep coming back,” Perry said. “Here, they didn’t do that.”

“Why should the DA grant him that if he’s not cooperating fully? This is not a traditional cooperation agreement. If he’s doing less, then he’s getting less.”

There’s a legal full-court press now against Trump. Most presidents leave office and fade into the background of American political life. But Weisselberg’s plea deal is just one of several legal events involving the former president that has kept his name in the news.

The most dramatic of these was the Aug. 8 FBI raid of Mar-a-Lago, which saw federal agents walk away from Trump’s Florida property with boxes of classified documents.


Questions Not Asked and Issues Not Dealt With

Not asked are questions like “Would people in your district not benefit from childcare” or “improved bridges?”

Instead, the right-wing media machine begins every national news cycle with what Republicans are angry about. Critical Race Theory is an example. It is never taught in grade schools, however controversial an idea this is, it’s nowhere near as significant as global warming, or the cost of childcare, yet Fox News peddled this made-up controversy 437 times in 2020.

The problem is mainstream media (ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, and MS-NBC) too often follow the stories broken by Fox News. Instead of ignoring or naming it a hoax, CNN aired 183 segments two or more times on critical race theory; in 2020 ABC News aired 31 reports; the Dallas Morning News, 69 reports; The Los Angeles Times, 38 times, and CNN’s newswire, 88 times.

What is significant is not important. What is important is not significant. Most of the time, most of the media obsess over issues of mind-numbing triviality.  At the same time, issues of immense, even existential importance are largely or entirely ignored in favor of repetitive coverage of the most newsworthy event of the day.

The Washington Post published an article about it in the spring but did not point out it’s not taught in public schools. It quoted eight Republicans but no Democrats. The New York Times also published lengthy a story about it. In the 13th paragraph, the Times acknowledged CRT isn’t taught in public schools, yet reported Republicans as saying critical race theory has invaded classrooms.

A group of 85 fact-checking organizations wrote an open letter to YouTube to Wednesday faulting the video platform for spreading disinformation.  The organizations, including, Univision and The Washington Post Fact-checker, call YouTube’s efforts to moderate content “insufficient.”

It wasn’t an accident that Joe Manchin chose Fox News to declare his opposition to the Build Back Better legislation and pressed Republicans and people like Joe Manchin to answer questions about the problems in their constituencies.

The media has in recent years completely normalized the Republicans’  worldview, to the point where virtually all of the Build Back Better coverage ignores the fact it’s 50 Republicans who are dooming legislation that would create a universal prekindergarten program, subsidize child care costs, lower prescription-drug costs and offer tax credits for reducing carbon emissions. Instead, the media is focused on the opposition of just one Senator, Joe Manchin. The Republicans are treated as innocent bystanders whose actions play no role in any of this.

The media can do a better job of relating the most urgent everyday problems of Americans like paying for childcare which prevents millions of Americans from returning to work. Global warming threatens our daily existence in more than a dozen ways.  These can be illustrated as well as “Made in America” segments, which I consider a “feel good” story.”

I propose a new category of “Solve Problems” stories. New patents, new ideas coming from universities, ideas solicited from the public are among the sources that could be tapped.

Half of the country is searching for a new understanding of our racial history, the other half violently denies it. Half of our neighbors are demagoguing critical race theory, while the other half are busy reading or watching Fox News about it. Millions of people are asking questions about whether  American history is an existential threat to them because then they have to ask questions of themselves.

Trump has said, “Our country is going to hell!” And, he is leading the march. 15 Republicans who voted against the oil import ban included several of Trump’s most outspoken supporters, including Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Matt Gaetz of Florida, Lauren Boebert of Colorado, Paul Gosar of Arizona, and Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina. Cawthorn has  called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky a “thug.”

His co-travelers include right-wing pastor Andrew Wommack who says “climate control is nothing but a ruse of the devil” and adds that people are dying in Ukraine because environmentalists have “empowered” Putin by trying to limit the use of fossil fuels.   Yet another example:

“At least the guy was a Democrat”  was a text sent to South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg after he committed a fatal hit-and-run by a  GOP political strategist.

In Nevada, while leaving a restaurant with his family, Governor Steve Sisolak, was threatened with hanging by two fat men.  “We should string you up on lamppost right now!” “They hang traitors!” shouted the men, one of whom recorded his own video and posted it on social media.  Two Republicans running for the nomination to replace Sisolak for governor Reno attorney Joey Gilbert and Las Vegas council member Michele Fiore lauded it: “I cannot think of a more deserving person,” Gilbert wrote, while Fiore chimed in that Sisolak was “lucky it was just words.

Now there are Republicans who have the audacity to require that Congress vote every five years on whether to continue Medicare and Social Security. This is the 11-point “Rescue America Plan” plan of Senator Rick Scott. He also calls for raising taxes on low- and middle-income Americans, including retirees who rely solely on Social Security for their income.

President Biden criticized the plan , noting that imposing new limits on Social Security and Medicare could endanger the programs in the future.

“Really, ask yourself: How well are we going to sleep at night knowing that every five years, MAGA Republicans — if they’re still the Republican — as I said, this is not your father’s Republican Party — if we’re going to have to vote on whether you will have Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, and what amounts you’ll have in each of those programs?” Biden asked.

This is a warning about the GOP’s agenda for Social Security and Medicare and what seniors could face if the Republicans retake Congress in November.”