Thursday Reads: Trump Continues to Threaten U.S. Democracy

Good Morning!!

I wish I could stop reading and writing about Donald Trump; but I can’t, because he continues to be a serious threat to U.S. Democracy. Yesterday was the six-month anniversary of the Capitol insurrection that Trump incited. Republicans are pretending it was no big deal, and Trump is moving toward celebrating it as a patriotic exercise. 

Over the weekend, Trump began demanding the name of the officer who shot Ashli Babbitt and defending her actions on January 6. From Philip Bump at The Washington Post:

The man who shot Babbitt has become a target of fury as Babbitt has increasingly been cast as something of a martyr for the day’s cause. Because that cause was Trumpism, Trump himself has spoken of Babbitt more and more often.

At a rally in Florida over the weekend, he demanded to make public the name of the person who had fired the bullet.

“People know the name. People know where he came from,” he said. “Now if that were on the other side” — meaning, not on Trump’s side — “the person who did the shooting would be strung up and hung.”

He reiterated the theme at a news conference on Wednesday.

“The person that shot Ashli Babbitt — boom, right through the head,” Trump said. “Just, boom. … They’ve already written it off. They said that case is closed. If that were the opposite, that case would be going on for years and years, and it would not be pretty.”

(Babbitt was not shot in the head. She was shot in the neck.)

Importantly, Trump also said that there was “no reason” for Babbitt’s having been shot. When protesters were outside the White House in May 2020, crossing the fence would have meant being mauled by dogs or otherwise being “really badly hurt, at least.” But a member of a huge, violent mob surging into a secure area of the Capitol that tried to press forward toward evacuating legislators? No reason for law enforcement to use deadly force.

This, at its heart, is Trump’s view of justice. Those on his side are exempt from accountability for their actions. Those on the other side, however, most be dealt with harshly — more harshly than the law allows.

Trump also demanded to know why people who participated in the insurrection are still in jail. It’s obvious that he is trying to recast the attack on the Capitol as a patriotic effort to save democracy, and many Republicans will follow his lead. It’s already happening in Florida. Raw Story: Florida GOP rally will call for release of ‘political prisoners’ charged in Capitol insurrection.

One week after former president Donald Trump visited Florida and questioned why so many accused Capitol rioters are still in jail, his supporters in the Sunshine State will gather on Saturday to call for the release of “political prisoners” charged in the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Florida has more people charged in the insurrection than any other state, including the most defendants connected to right-wing groups the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys, according to Creative Loafing Tampa Bay.

Saturday’s “Free Our Patriots Rally in Tally” outside the state Capitol will call on Republican Gov. Ron Desantis “to demand immediate release of the incarcerated patriots and to use all the power and leverage at his disposal to make this happen.”

The event is being organized in part by Luis Miguel, a far-right candidate who is challenging Republican Sen. Marco Rubio in the GOP primary.

“Folks, The patriots who have been hunted down by the corrupt, communist FBI are suffering,” Miguel wrote on Twitter. “Many of them are veterans who fought for this nation. Let’s do our part to ensure they’re liberated. We can’t allow this in America. Be there at the Florida Capitol July 10.”

Another organizer of the rally is Angel Harrelson, the wife of former Army Sgt. Kenneth Troy Harrelson, an admitted member of the Oath Keepers who remains behind bars after being charged in the insurrection.

Angel Harrelson told a YouTube radio program this week that among other things, she plans to play a recording of her husband and other alleged insurrectionists singing the national anthem over the phone from jail.

Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine: The Chilling Message of Trump’s Embrace of Ashli Babbitt Martyrdom.

Babbitt’s death, while tragic, occurred for a very good reason. The Air Force veteran, who had been fully converted into the most dangerous and fantastical pro-Trump conspiracy theories, had joined the aggressive vanguard of the January 6 insurrection. Babbitt died trying to squeeze through the smashed window of a barricaded door that led to the inner sanctum where members of Congress were hiding from the mob.

Talia Lavin’s profile of Babbitt, in the current issue of the magazine, notes her emergence as a martyr on the far right. As Lavin points out, Babbitt is not the only Trump supporter who lost her life during the insurrection. Rosanne Boyland also died, but the manner of her death — trampling by the mob — does not serve the same propagandistic purpose. The whole point of Babbitt’s centrality is that she was leading the mob violently forward toward its goal of threatening or killing officials who refused to cooperate with their objective of overturning the election result.

It is revealing that Trump has only taken up Babbitt’s cause now, six months after the insurrection. In the immediate aftermath of the riot, Republicans were briefly furious enough to contemplate writing Trump out of the party and even voting to impeach him. Then they decided not to expunge him, and to hope the ugly events simply faded from memory. A few months later, they decided to purge Liz Cheney, allegedly because she refused to let go of the insurrection. Shortly after that, the party voted to block a bipartisan investigation of the insurrection.

All the political momentum is on Trump’s side. He has slowly turned January 6 from a black mark that threatened to expunge him from Republican politics, to a regrettable episode that his allies preferred to leave behind, to a glorious uprising behind which he could rally his adherents….

By throwing himself behind this message, Trump is endorsing the most radical interpretation of his presidency. January 6 was not a minor misstep after a successful era, as fans like Mike Pence and Lindsey Graham now say. It was the heroic culmination of a righteous uprising.

Wajahat Ali at The Daily Beast: Why Trump Is Anointing Ashli Babbitt as MAGA’s First Martyr.

We’ve all heard the old adage that “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.”

With Ashli BabbittDonald Trump and the GOP have found a perfect martyr to rationalize their perpetual victimhood and inspire future “freedom fighters” to assist in their full-scale assault on democracy.

Babbitt was one of thousands of Trump supporters who decided to join the violent insurrection on Jan. 6 and overrun the U.S. Capitol in hopes of canceling a free and fair election. She was shot by a Capitol police officer while climbing through a broken window on a door that led to the Speaker’s Lobby. She died while wearing a Trump flag as a cape.

The pointless death of the 35-year-old Air Force veteran came in the service of Trump’s Big Lie, but his party has shown no contrition. Rather, Republicans are cynically exploiting her death to fuel their dangerous quest for power at all costs.

In April, the police officer who fatally shot Babbitt was cleared of criminal wrongdoing. His identity has not been released due to death threats that inevitably increased after Trump released a one-line statement last week asking “Who Shot Ashli Babbit?” That echoed Rep. Paul Gosar, an ally of avowed white supremacists, who accused the police officer of supposedly “lying in wait” to “execute” Babbitt….

The pointless death of the 35-year-old Air Force veteran came in the service of Trump’s Big Lie, but his party has shown no contrition. Rather, Republicans are cynically exploiting her death to fuel their dangerous quest for power at all costs….

The goal is to keep enraging and confusing their base, convince them of a far-reaching “Deep State” conspiracy committed to depriving them of power and glory and “replacing” them, and deflect from the Jan. 6 investigations that will further document the extremist elements embedded within the GOP and conservative movement.

Ali argues that Babbitt is the perfect martyr for Trump’s and the GOP’s purposes.

Babbitt—a woman, a wife, an Air Force veteran, and a true believer for Trump who, according to them, was “assassinated” by the “Deep State”—is an ideal character to glorify in death for a conservative movement that has turned into a racket and cult, a “victim” who can no longer speak for herself and can thus embody whatever fiction and grievance they want to promote.

On right-wing social media platforms she is being called “the first victim of the second Civil War” and a “freedom fighter.” Until last week, Sears and Kmart were selling “Ashli Babbitt American Patriot” T-shirts on their websites. Even Vladimir Putin is getting in on the action to deflect from his own abuses of power. When asked by NBC News’ Keir Simmons if he ordered the assassination of political dissident Alexei Navalny, Putin hit back, “Did you order the assassination of the woman who walked into the Congress and who was shot and killed by a policeman?”

How comforting to know that Putin shares the same script and talking points as Trump, Gosar, and right-wing media personalities.

Ultimately, the purpose of anointing Ashli Babbitt, and demonizing the officer who shot her in the process, is to justify the GOP’s goal of attacking our democratic institutions to ensure minority rule. If the base believes that they are being prosecuted, oppressed and even “assassinated” like Babbitt, then they will justify any and all means to reject Democratic rule and future elections that deprive them of power.

There’s no doubt that U.S. democracy is in danger as long as Republicans remain in thrall to Trump. I’ll end with this piece from NBC News: What’s keeping democracy experts up most at night? An overturned election.

There’s no legal avenue for Trump to reverse the 2020 results. But a half-dozen scholars who study democracy and election laws told NBC News they are increasingly worried that 2024 could be a repeat of 2020, only with a party further remade in the former president’s image and better equipped to sow disorder during the process and even potentially overturn the results.

“Obviously the insurrection was horrific in its violence and assault on democracy, but it didn’t disrupt the true winner of the election,” said Edward B. Foley, a professor at Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University who researches election law. “What you don’t want is it to have been a rehearsal.”

Nightmare scenarios include local or state officials refusing to certify votes, governors and state legislatures submitting electoral votes that disagree with each other or overrule the apparent vote counts, fights over the legitimacy of judges overseeing the process and the House and Senate disagreeing on the winner. A chaotic transition could create an opening for further violence, either from extremists attempting to disrupt the process again or mass unrest if the winner is viewed as illegitimate.

“We should not pretend these dangers are fantastical or that these are absurd hypotheticals,” Rick Hasen, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine. “Given what we saw Trump actually do in 2020, these things are now within the realm of possibility and need to be legislated against and organized against so we have a fair election process going forward.”

A bit more:

New and proposed laws in states like Georgia and Arizona have sought to wrest power from state and local election officials, some of whom played a role in resisting the former president’s demands last election.

Republicans face significant pressure from their base to make these types of systemic changes — and potentially go much further. Lee Drutman, a senior fellow at the New America foundation, released survey data last month that found 46 percent of Republicans supported empowering state legislatures to overturn election results in states President Joe Biden won, as Trump demanded they do in 2020….

Some observers worry the party’s increased willingness to even entertain these scenarios could create perverse incentives in which state or local officials try to boost the odds of a poorly administered election that would give partisan leaders more flexibility to intervene….

In 2020, every governor and state legislature accepted the election results, but the midterms could reshuffle the landscape. Trump has sought to punish Republican incumbents like Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger with primary challenges. Trump has also lashed out at otherwise supportive Republican legislators in states like Wisconsin and Michigan who have affirmed the results.

“The fact that it held in 2020 doesn’t guarantee it will hold in 2024,” Omar Wasow, an assistant professor of politics at Princeton University, said. “You need ethical people in these jobs, and we’re seeing a lot of ethical people leaving in part because they’ve been threatened or attacked by partisans or because the level of vitriol they’ve been subject to is not worth the effort.”

The whole article is well worth reading.

That’s it for me today. Please let me know what you think. As always, this is an open thread.