The 800 lb. Insurrection
It takes a conspiracy to hatch a conspiracy.
A Different “Steal”
Trump’s “Stop the Steal” movement, aka “The Big Lie,” is not the first popular conspiracy hatched by authoritarian sympathizers to subvert democracy. Sure, Trump and company have a history of smearing outcomes they don’t like, but this is not to what one is referring.
Consider an earlier percolation which occurred fifty years ago. In 1971 Lewis Powell, Jr., a Richmond lawyer and recent Nixon appointee to the Supreme Court, tried to convince American businessmen, largely white upper-class scions of industry, to mobilize against a threat of left leaning university professors, intellectuals and media who, so Powell claimed, want to subvert the ‘capitalistic way of life in America.’ (1) His memo written to the Board of the National Associations of Chambers of Commerce was widely circulated among members of the Republican Party. Powell groomed his audience for taking back America. The tone, stage and script were established for the moneyed interests to assert themselves politically in a profound way: to redeem what this group presumably had lost.
By placing doubt in the people’s voice, Powell attempted to organize businesspeople to take power and assert legitimacy which he proposed was being threatened by ‘sinister forces.’
Sinister forces he never specified: a conspiracy with no evidence.
The current percolation is the attempt to organize Republicans to take back the ‘democratic’ institution of voting, which according to lawyers Rudolph Giuliani, Cleta Mitchell, Sidney Powell and others was being “stolen” by Democrats: a conspiracy with no evidence. It didn’t matter that many of the precincts they were targeting with their “Stop the Steal” brandings vote consistently Republican: it’s the institution of voting they want to undo, not merely the outcome. That the courts consistently ruled against their claims in state after state didn’t matter either, for according to these conspiracy mongers the courts had no “standing” in rendering a decision about a federal election outcome. (2)
And this reasoning was further based on another fiction, that the Constitution was written by men, if alive today, who would agree with their position.
As Powell urged business interests to “take back our government and the American way of life,” Giuliani, Mitchell et al. are urging local Republican Party interests to take back our democracy and save our country.
Both invoke patriotism.
But there is a significant difference in the two approaches: whereas Powell’s urging was manifested by non-violent rhetorical means, Giuliani-Mitchell have added violence to the mix: to defend the country by “all means necessary.”
Little or no rhetoric is in play, just intimidation and the threat of violence
Powell needed complicit businessmen, Giuliani-Mitchell needs complicit mobsters and good lawyers to defend their actions.
“I am with Cleta”
Cleta Mitchell is a busy insurrectionist.
Since she was forced to terminate her partnership in the Washington law firm of Foley and Lardner, Mitchell has been traversing America building an army. Starting with the states of Arizona, Pennsylvania and Nevada, Mitchell is recruiting state poll watchers driven by her 2020 election denials to rectify “the next election.” (3)
‘Nothing irregular’ on the surface.
She has money. Check. There is an opportunity to suppress voting rights to get Republican loyalists elected. Check. She hasn’t broken any laws, yet. Check.
What’s wrong with this picture?
Here was an attempt in real time to politicize the work of the “voting institution.” Not the one-off of the “khaki army” that descended on Palm Beach County in 2000 to challenge the process and attempt to seize ballot boxes, but the relentless uprooting of what had been “service to country.” The endless hours scrupulously tendering citizens’ votes was reduced to being witlessly hoodwinked by corrupt voting machines linked to Hugo Chavez.
And what do we do with co-conspirators? Remove them “by all means necessary.”
Who’s up for the job? Get in touch with Cleta.
Secretary of Conspiracy
Usually, if one has lost their case in court, not once but three times, one gets a call from the local magistrate’s office cautioning that the next time the request for a hearing is made, it will be turned down unless substantial new evidence is brought forward. Two years have elapsed since the presumed phone call, but Kristina Karamo, who filed the claims of fraudulent election results in the 2020 Michigan Presidential election, waited no longer. Karamo has gained the credibility of Donald Trump and is the Republican Party loyalist’s dream: the newly arrived Trump Election denier and Community College prof is campaigning for Michigan Secretary of State against Democrat incumbent Jocelyn Benson. (4)
Karamo is not receiving death threats. Benson is. (5)
It’s time to vote.
After reports that Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas had attended the January 6 “Stop the Steal” rally on the Ellipse, Democrats suggested that Thomas should recuse himself from any decision(s) the Supreme Court might entertain related to the events of January 6.
What mainstream media missed is that Thomas should recuse himself because his wife is broadcasting a lie —’ the independent state doctrine’ — that he is fond of arguing in defense of dissenting on recent gerrymandering appeals. (6)
In a recent opinion piece, NYTimes columnist Jamelle Bouie offers some “originalist” context:
Even at this early juncture in our nation’s history, many Americans believed in democratic participation and sought to make the institutions of the Republic more receptive to the voice of the people. One supporter of district elections, Representative James Strudwick Smith of North Carolina, put it simply: “You will bring the election near to the people, and, consequently you will make them place more value on the elective franchise, which is all-important in a republican form of Government.”
There is a somewhat common view that the counter-majoritarianism of the American system is acceptable because the United States is a “Republic, not a democracy.” That notion lurks behind the idea of the “independent state legislature,” which would empower partisans to limit the right of the people to choose their leaders in a direct and democratic manner.
But from the start, Americans have rejected the idea that their system is somehow opposed to more and greater democracy. When institutions seemed to subvert democratic practice, the voters and their representatives pushed back, demanding a government more responsive to their interests, desires and republican aspirations. It is not for nothing that the men who claimed Jefferson as their political and ideological forefather labeled their party “The Democracy.”
As Americans recognized then, and as they should recognize now, the Constitution is not a charter for states or state legislatures, it is a charter for people, for our rights and for our right to self-government.
-Jamelle Bouie, “Next Time Trump Tries to Steal an Election, He Won’t Need a Mob,” NYTimes, Opinion, July 11 (7)
In other words, no ‘precedent’ exists.
Of course, Thomas can also recuse himself on matters he feels conflicted by due to past political activities.
Thomas can recuse himself due to Ginni’s long reach into partisan Washington; however, this act would be viewed as admitting defeat and betrayal.
The 800 lb. Insurrection (8)
Last week, the Supreme Court announced it would hear arguments in Moore v. Harper, a challenge to North Carolina’s new congressional map.
The long and short of the case is that North Carolina Republicans proposed a gerrymander so egregious that the state Supreme Court ruled that it violated the state’s Constitution. Republicans sought to restore the legislative map, citing the “independent state legislature doctrine,” which asserts that state legislatures have almost absolute power to set their own rules for federal elections. Once passed into law, then, those rules cannot be overturned — or even reviewed — by state courts.
-Jamelle Bouie, “Next Time Trump Tries to Steal an Election, He Won’t Need a Mob,” NYTimes, Opinion, July 11
What has been described as the “800 lb. Gorilla,” (9) the impending Supreme Court decision on the North Carolina appeal can be more aptly described as the “800 lb. Insurrection.” If the recent decision in Dobbs was a power grab by the Supreme court in upending Roe, a partisan decision in the North Carolina case would be interpreted as a breach of democracy.
When ‘founding father’ Thomas Paine wrote Commonsense, (9) he was not inventing a conspiracy. Living under British autocratic rule in colonial America was a daily oppression. Moreover, what Paine advocated for was a mixture of “stay the course” (e.g., keep fighting and resisting the British) and something profoundly different: out of this effort will come the seeds of self-governance created from a shared adoption of equality.
Paine wasn’t advocating for a mob takeover, but a new country.
The Declaration of Independence was a heartbeat away.
2NCarolina Case before the Supreme Court
3NYTimes piece on Cleta Mitchell
5-Elaine Godfrey, “The MAGA Poll Worker Who Might Run Michigan’s Elections,”
The Election Denier Who Could Run Michigan's Elections
In the weeks after the 2020 election, one particular Michigan woman was trumpeting claims of fraud as loudly as she…
7–Next Time Trump Tries to Steal an Election, He Won’t Need a Mob
8- “The independent state legislature theory has been an 800-pound gorilla brooding in the background of election law cases working their way up from state courts,” he said.
“In its most extreme form, it would not only rework the balance of power in protecting voting rights in states from state supreme courts and executive agencies to state legislatures,” he said. “It would also give the Supreme Court a potential excuse to interfere with presidential election results any time a state court or agency has relied on a state constitution to give voters more protections than those afforded by the U.S. Constitution.”
-Richard L. Hansen, law professor at the University of California, Irvine, quoted in Adam Litvak, “Supreme Court May Hear ‘800-Pound Gorilla’ of Election Law Cases”