October 6, 2022
The scandal involving Herschel Walker, the staunchly anti-abortion Georgia candidate for the Senate who appears to have paid for an ex-girlfriend’s abortion in 2009, got worse today. After he claimed he did not know the woman who said he paid for an abortion, the woman said she was the mother of one of his other, newly acknowledged, children, so of course he knows her.
Just five years ago, Representative Tim Murphy (R-PA), who belonged to the Republican Pro-Life Caucus, resigned just hours after the story broke that he pressured a woman with whom he was having an affair to get an abortion. Now, Republicans are rallying around Walker, with former NRA spokesperson and former Breitbart writer Dana Loesch saying: “I don’t care if Herschel Walker paid to abort endangered baby eagles. I want control of the Senate.”
In the Philadelphia Inquirer, columnist Will Bunch pointed out that Republican leaders have not condemned Walker for his hypocrisy on abortion, his lies about it and about the many other things he has lied about during the campaign, or the many allegations of domestic violence women have made about him. Instead, his campaign says it has raised half a million dollars since the news broke, while Walker recorded an ad claiming he has been “saved by grace.”
Bunch noted what many observers have already called out: that the Republicans no longer care about anything but winning. But he went on: they insist on winning so they can put their vision of Christian domination into effect. “[T]he so-called ‘family values’ of American fundamentalists…turn out to be mere window dressing that can be tossed for the movement’s true aim: authoritarianism,” he wrote.
Bunch linked to a piece that scholar of fascism Brynn Tannehill published in today’s New Republic, noting that religion in the U.S. is declining among younger folks and that older evangelicals are increasingly concerned they are losing power, at the same time that their Christianity has become a political identity. Tannehill wrote: “The real danger of this widening schism…lies in this creating the conditions for a future that looks more like present-day Russia or Iran.”
The Republican Party’s shift toward authoritarianism is clear in the refusal of a majority of the party’s nominees for office this fall to agree that President Joe Biden won the 2020 election. Amy Gardner of the Washington Post ran the numbers and found that 299 Republican candidates for the House, Senate, and important state offices are election deniers, and that 174 of them are running in districts that are safely Republican. If Republicans win the House in November, election deniers will form a strong voting bloc that will affect the choice of the next speaker; some are already complaining that House minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is too moderate. Many of those elected in states will oversee state elections.
The Republican narrative that Democrats can win only by cheating began back in 1994, after the Democrats made registering to vote easier with the 1993 so-called Motor Voter Act. In 1994, losing Republican candidates complained their opponents had cheated, and congressional Republicans kept that narrative alive with congressional investigations. Over time, “voter fraud” became the way Republicans explained away the unpopularity of their ideas.
Trump’s continuing insistence that he won the 2020 election, and the Republican Party’s embrace of that lie despite the fact that Biden won by more than 7 million votes in the popular vote and by 306 to 232 in the Electoral College, says that they will never again consider the election of a Democrat legitimate.
In Arizona, where the Republican nominee for governor, Kari Lake, has said that Biden is an illegitimate president and the Republican nominee for secretary of state, Mark Finchem, has said that he would not have certified the true 2020 election results in Arizona, Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) last night at an event at Arizona State University urged Arizona voters to elect Democrats.
“If you care about democracy and you care about the survival of our republic, then you need to understand—we all have to understand—that we cannot give people power who have told us that they will not honor elections,” Cheney said.
The trial of five Oath Keepers in Washington, D.C., for seditious conspiracy has provided more insight into how far members of the gang were willing to go to keep Trump in office. Today, former Oath Keeper John Zimmerman, who left the gang before January 6, 2021, testified that he heard Oath Keeper leader Stewart Rhodes talking in September 2020 with someone Zimmerman believed was a member of the Secret Service.
Meanwhile, Jeremy Bertino, a leader of the extremist right-wing Proud Boys gang that worked alongside the Oath Keepers on January 6, 2021, today told a federal judge he will plead guilty to seditious conspiracy. Bertino, who was not in Washington on January 6, was a top lieutenant to Proud Boy leader Enrique Tarrio and is now cooperating with the Justice Department. Like others involved in the attack on the U.S. Capitol, Bertino appeared to believe they were “SAVING THE CONSTITUTION,” as he posted to the rioters. He later wrote: “1776 motherf*ck*rs.”
Lawyers for Trump have told New York Times reporters Michael S. Schmidt, Maggie Haberman, and Katie Benner that the Justice Department does not think Trump has returned all the documents he stole from the White House. That information came from Jay I. Bratt, who leads the Justice Department’s counterintelligence operations, and it has split Trump’s lawyers between those who want him to cooperate and those backing Trump’s instinct to fight.
We still don’t know just what is in those documents, and who else has seen them. This is an unfortunate wild card as Biden is trying to rebuild alliances to defend democracy. In the trial of Thomas J. Barrack Jr., an investor and Trump backer being prosecuted for secretly working for the United Arab Emirates during Trump’s term, former secretary of state Rex Tillerson today said he did not know about the contacts between Barrack, Jared Kushner, and representatives for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that are coming to light in trial testimony.
In contrast to those backing Trump, Biden today worked toward equal justice before the law when he pardoned all U.S. citizens and permanent residents who have been convicted of possession of marijuana. Many state governments have already made possession legal—a position that Americans overwhelmingly support—and since arrests for possession fall far more heavily on minorities than on white offenders although their rates of marijuana use are similar, advocates for fairness in the criminal justice code have called for this reform. While the pardon will free few if any incarcerated people, it will get rid of criminal records that make it harder to get jobs, housing, and educational opportunities.
Vice President Kamala Harris, who has advocated for a comprehensive marijuana reform bill for years, tweeted: “This is a step forward in correcting the historical injustices of failed drug policies.”
Biden called for governors to pardon possession offenses at the state level and asked officials to look into moving marijuana to a less dangerous category of drug, but he made it clear he wanted to keep “important limitations on trafficking, marketing, and under-age sales.”