Today, at the initiative of the George W. Bush Institute, U.S. presidential foundations and centers for thirteen presidents since Herbert Hoover released a statement expressing concern about the health of American democracy. The statement notes that while the diverse population of the United States means we have a range of backgrounds and beliefs, “democracy holds us together. We are a country rooted in the rule of law, where the protection of the rights of all people is paramount.”
It is good that the presidential foundations and centers warned of the present dangers to democracy. It is too bad that did not have the courage to clearly stat that the MAGA wing of the Republican party including Trump and his acolytes and imitators are the present threat to democracy in America.
WIZARD VS. LIZARD
As a kid I was enchanted by the Wizard of Oz (Frank Morgan).
A month before my 90th birthday I am terrified of the Lizard of Ooze (Bone Spur Donald).
I felt that the Wizard emanated hope and positive illusion through a carnival character without a shred of meanness in his body.
I know that the Lizard is a mean-spirited narcissist who spreads negative vibes to all in his cult clutches.
As a young lad, I had the remarkable good fortune to be asked to deliver a message to Frank Morgan on his yacht. Mr. Morgan graciously invited me to have a Coke in his walnut paneled cabin. [It was a 6 ounce Coke, decades before the diet variety.]
I was enraptured by this real-world Wizard who had provided courage, a brain, and a heart to Dorothy’s friends and showed Dorothy that there was no place like home (after a wicked witch experienced a watery death).
I can imagine having a cheeseburger and a Coke in the Lizard’s gilt-gold, ketchup-walled Mar a Lago hideaway.
The Lizard would bloviate about ‘the worst witch hunt in American history,’ his broken record about the BIG LIE and how he is the personification of justice (and revenge),and how Judases were betraying his path for America.
I firmly believe that the Wizard represents the soul of America while the Lizard is the personification of all that is despicable.
'...we are in the midst of a storm of disinformation designed to undermine the key institutions of our democracy, particularly the rule of law.' (Letter)
Welcome to 15th century Christian Doctrine in the 21st.
Take note in this book review of Justice Alito resorting to myths about Native Americans in his dissenting opinion in the case of Haaland v. Brackeen, which challenged the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act, giving preference to Native American families in cases involving the placement of a Native American child.
‘In “The Hidden Roots of White Supremacy,” Robert P. Jones explores the harmful legacy of a 15th-century Christian doctrine used to justify expansion and colonization in the New World.’ (excerpted)
‘When Joe Biden became the first sitting U.S. president to use the term “white supremacy” — in a 2021 speech commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa race massacre — he gave voice to the views of countless other Americans who share his concern about the country’s often forgotten histories of racial violence.’
“As painful as it is,” Biden said, “only in remembrance do wounds heal. We just have to choose to remember.” Coming one year after the killing of George Floyd, Biden’s remarks — like much of his presidency — have encouraged national reflection and reassessment.'
'Robert P. Jones’s stimulating new book, “The Hidden Roots of White Supremacy,” examines a series of such reckonings. In lucid prose and evocative detail, he contextualizes these attempts at racial healing within a broader, and much older, history of injustice and moral failure, suggesting that in order “to understand who and where we are, we need our ‘in the beginning’ to start much earlier.”
'To his credit, Jones centers both African American and American Indian oppression, avoiding “the myopic Black/white binary” that silos much contemporary scholarship. “Upstream from the stories of violence toward African Americans,” he writes, “were the legacies of genocide and removal of the land’s Indigenous peoples.” Full of urgency and insight, his book is a compelling and necessary undertaking.'
'A religious studies scholar and president of the Public Religion Research Institute, Jones begins with an impassioned moral charge: Racism predated the arrival of African slaves on the continent, helped to fuel the rise of the United States and still pervades our society. This history is also at the heart of polarized conceptions of American identity, for which presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump provide opposing symbols.'
'One of Jones’s boldest suggestions is to locate the “roots” of American racism not in 1619 or other defining moments in the history of American slavery, but much further back, within religious practices developed in the aftermath of the Columbian Encounter. In 1493, Pope Alexander VI issued an edict praising Columbus for extending European dominion to lands “not previously possessed by any Christian owner.” The declaration was part of what became known as the “Doctrine of Discovery,” an enduring if amorphously defined set of proclamations and legalistic rituals created in the late 15th century to validate European appropriation of the territories of the Western Hemisphere and justify colonization — including, in 1541, in what is now Mississippi, by the Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto, who claimed much of the South.'
'The Doctrine of Discovery has legitimated the expropriation of Native American lands for more than 500 years. Yet, as Jones points out, few know much about this history or its ongoing influence. In 2005, the Supreme Court invoked the doctrine in its ruling in City of Sherrill v. Oneida Indian Nation of N.Y., denying a claim by the Oneida Nation that it should not have to pay taxes on land that once belonged to it as part of a sovereign reservation but that had been sold to the state in 1805 — in violation of a federal treaty — and then, in the late 1990s, reacquired. Writing the majority opinion (and citing the doctrine in a footnote), Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg argued that the tribe could not “unilaterally revive its ancient sovereignty, in whole or in part” since it “long ago relinquished reins of government and cannot regain them through open-market purchases from current titleholders.” The decision was criticized by scholars and Indigenous activists for enlisting the doctrine in a legal argument favoring the land’s colonizer over its original inhabitants.'
'For many minority communities, history remains simultaneously a sword to wield and a shield to seek out for protection, and myths of cultural superiority continue to impair racial progress. In June, the Supreme Court decided the case of Haaland v. Brackeen, which challenged the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act, giving preference to Native American families in cases involving the placement of a Native American child. The court upheld the law in a 7-2 ruling.'
'But in a dissenting opinion, Justice Samuel Alito objected to the act’s prioritizing of tribal affiliation, arguing that it required “a state to abandon the carefully considered judicial procedures and standards it has established to provide for a child’s welfare and instead apply a scheme devised by Congress that focuses not solely on the best interest of the child, but also on ‘the stability and security of Indian tribes.’” During oral argument for the case, Alito had resorted to old myths about Native history, remarking that “before the arrival of Europeans, the tribes were at war with each other often, and they were separated by an entire continent.”
'Isolated and warlike in this conceit, Native peoples were presumably neither using their lands appropriately nor justified in keeping them. They were peoples without history, as Hegel argued, far outside the moral universe of “any Christian owner” — and thus rightly subject to dispossession. As Jones demonstrates, the Doctrine of Discovery established the foundation for such value-laden cultural and racial assumptions.'
'Much is to be gained from Jones’s deep, comparative immersion in local efforts to ameliorate the wounds of the past. He shows how countless Indigenous and African American lives have been irrevocably harmed over the past five centuries and how leaders at every level of government have failed to offer sufficient commemoration, repair or justice. “Christianity,” Jones writes, “has also proven to be more pliant than principled.” (NYTimes, book review by Ned Blackhawk)) Sorry that I could not provide a gifted link.
I wish to Christ people would READ the Constitution before they cite its language! The Defendant was NEVER Peter Navarro's "commander-in-chief". The President is commander in chief of the ARMED FORCES, not (as some like to say) of the United States'; there is no such office as "commander in chief of the United States", and it would be an offense to republican principles if there were. He outranks any general or admiral, and that's ALL IT MEANS! He has no special authority over me (not since January 12, 1976, when I got my discharge) or you or any other civilian on account of that. What Navarro should have said is that the Defendant was his employer but that's hardly a legal defense.
Sorry, Petey, but you really touched a nerve with that one.
An incredibly depressing letter today on the attacks on our democratic institutions from both within and without. AI and its ability to produce deep fakes generated by foreign actors are going to warp reality in the coming elections.
The Paxton revelations continue to horrify me in the extent that he was able to blantantly ignore the obligations of his position unchecked and work solely to impose his ideological agenda. That this has taken this long to get revealed in the media speaks o the weakening of traditional media.
Indeed, Elon Musk is fast becoming one of the most dangerous..... and powerful.... people on the planet.
And he seems to be horrifyingly gullible.
Heather Cox Richardson we are living in themidst of the old Chinese curse of "interesting times". Your letter has it all.
My fave item of the day was Willis' verbal smackdown of Jordan. He can buy the book of RICO law for $149.
Much appreciated Professor ⭐
As long as we're talking about the rise of fascism, there's an opportunity this weekend to download and record the best movie ever made about fascism: the 5-hour Director's Cut of Bernardo Bertolucci's "1900" - the epic story of Italy from 1900-1945 seen through the life of the son of the landowner (Robert DeNiro) and the son of the head of the peasants who work the estate (Gerard Depardieu) who becomes the local Communist Leader. Donald Sutherland nearly steals the whole thing in broad daylight playing the overseer recruited to represent the landowners to Mussolini, who after 1922 takes over and terrorizes everyone. He has two scenes I'm not going to describe so you get the full whammy that perfectly explain and demonstrate the essence of fascism.
The movie is on MGM+ (and on MGM+ on cable Sunday night) and Amazon Prime. This weekend only. Search "1900 Extended" to get it. If you ever saw the 2.5 hour "theatrical release" 40 years ago, the director's cut makes that look like the Cliff's Notes of the movie.
Thank you so much for your Letters Heather. Every morning with a tip of the hat to Pavlov, I sip coffee, look at world news, review The Guardian, and look forward to your writing and citations to arrive at a greater understanding of what continues to unfold in the United States and the historical context.
With Bannon, Navarro, Trump -and his 18 cronies indicted, and or convicted, Trump did say he was going to "drain the swamp". Now his prognostication is more clear. He intended to jump into the swamp with his co-conspirators and accessories after the fact, displacing the murky water and then be taken into custody.
With a small team I'm working to provide a mechanism for rational people who embrace facts, evidence, and science to reach agreements on what American society should aspire toward, and then guide them to codify such agreements into action. While most social and news media today is beholden to the profit motive -and therefore thrives upon conflict and polarization, we believe there is an important opportunity to set forth an alternative, where people can respectfully disagree, reach new understandings, and then collaborate on outcomes that move America forward, strengthen our economic engine, as well as democracy, equity, and justice.
Your work continues to inspire us and remain hopeful about the future.
Which is the biggest terrorist this week, Mike Huckabee or Elon Musk? Either one, I’m feeling terrorized.
No mortuary temple to the memory of George W. Bush has standing to lecture anyone on democracy. The only difference between the elections of 2000 and 2020 is that Bush got away with it.
"Paxton appears to have used the powers of his office not to help the people who elected him, but to advance an ideological agenda along with his own interests. "
And seriously, how many current, salient elected Republicans have not?
Thank you Heather.
For the life of me, I do not understand why Chuck Grassley's involvement in the January 6th Insurrection is not talked about every damn day.
I can't thank Fanni Willis enough for that public take down of Jim Jordan. I'm fairly certain he did not expect the response he got from her.
Be safe. Be well.
It is remarkable to me actions of defiance exhibited by Alabama governor Kay Ivey and her ilk. Not once, but twice trounce, and step and grind their collective heels into the rights of voters, told to stop and then do it again, admonished for their behavior, and then say "Screw you federal government".... maybe she's channeling George Wallace. And then, everyone's going to the Supreme Court to get their grievances addressed, like it's a local court they just use address their whims and desires.
It is child like behavior, repubs don't like being told no, you can't do that.... who does this remind us of? We are in a terrible situation, and my biggest fear is the Great Orange One gets re-elected, and really, all bets are off. By now, they know the designs and weaknesses of the federal government, the administration thereof, and they are ready to push aside the public servants that do the day to day work in favor of the Trumpists willing to do his bidding. Ugh! Thank you HCR once again for your brilliant perspective!
Several of those presidential institutions have some nerve sending out an alarm about the death of our democracy when they themselves helped poison it.
Fantastic letter today, Heather. Thank you for keeping us apprised of the amazing revelations that our elected officials are being held to account! HOORAY! ♥️