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Stephen Richer tried to stay out of it. “But I am human,” the Maricopa County, Arizona, election official wrote for CNN Opinion, “I have my limits.”

Richer is a Republican who won his post on an unlikely platform: to make the “Maricopa County Recorder’s Office Boring Again,” he wrote. But after the county’s 2020 votes were checked and rechecked, confirming Joe Biden’s victory, Arizona Senate Republicans launched a questionable “audit” of the ballots by a cybersecurity company. Conspiracy theorists supporting former President Donald Trump’s baseless vote fraud narrative cooked up bizarre claims – of “fake ballots flown in from South Korea” and of a deleted election database.

When Trump himself piled on with a statement repeating the lie about the missing database, Richer decided he had had enough – and tweeted, “this is unhinged.”

“It was time to loudly speak up to defend my name, my team’s name and the county’s name. It was also time to loudly speak the truth,” he wrote.

“The truth is that there is no solid evidence of significant fraud in Maricopa County’s November 3 election. There is no solid evidence that the election in Maricopa County was stolen from former President Trump. That is why all eight cases brought in Arizona state and federal courts alleging widespread fraud, inaccuracies, or irregularities lost spectacularly. And yes, I believe in the court system and the rule of law.”

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Elections have consequences

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“Politics is war without bloodshed,” said the Communist revolutionary leader Mao Zedong, in 1938. But the future chairman of the People’s Republic of China also declared, “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.”

With his vicious, take-no-prisoners view of politics, Mao might not be surprised at the findings of a new study conducted in the battleground state of North Carolina, where researchers reported Thursday that “exposure to a stressful political election, such as the 2016 US presidential election, was associated with a 77% increase in the risk of cardiac arrhythmia in people with underlying cardiovascular disease.” That election, they wrote, “stands out as a historic event because of the unprecedented levels of anxiety, animosity, and partisan rhetoric throughout the campaign and the polarized reactions to the unexpected election results.”

But 2016 turned out to be only a prelude to the even more traumatic events that followed the 2020 election – and more than four months after the January 6 invasion of the US Capitol by former President Donald Trump’s supporters, Congress still hasn’t decided how to investigate it.

This week, the Republican leaders of the House and Senate declared their opposition to creating a commission to investigate the riot, in which police were beaten, lawmakers cowered in fear for their lives and five people died.

“The continuing effort to throw sand in the eyes of history – to gaslight the American people about what happened that day – is a thundering alarm about the future of America’s democracy,” wrote Frida Ghitis. “When a country has just lived through a coup attempt, it should urgently, honestly, examine what occurred … Trump and many of his backers maliciously insist the election was stolen. If they have their way, the next coup attempt may not fail.

Fareed Zakaria observed that “the modern Republican Party has its roots in rebellion – rebellion against the main currents of change in modern American society: the growth of the welfare state, the secularization of life and the increasing diversity of American society.” Most Americans “don’t agree with that protest,” but GOP leaders are left “riding the back of a tiger and they can’t get off” since leaders like Trump “whip up their followers into a froth of hysteria.” The result, in Zakaria’s view: the party becomes “a band of ideological warriors with apocalyptic vision that fears the ends of days, sees opponents as devils and traitors and believes that all methods are sanctioned in its battle to save civilization and itself.”

The party’s former national chairman, Richard N. Bond, wrote that Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is performing “a political high-wire act worthy of the legendary Flying Wallendas,” as he seeks “to retain the loyalty of millions of Republican voters still wedded to former President Donald Trump. On the other hand, McCarthy needs to avoid going down the surreal and dangerous rabbit hole created by Trump and his ‘Big Lie’ of a stolen election.”

For more:

Errol Louis: What Trump has to worry about now

SE Cupp: ‘QAnon Shaman’ attorney’s awful defense of insurrectionists

Diana Butler Bass: White evangelicals after Trump: What now?

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George Floyd’s death, one year later

The murder conviction of Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer who a year ago held his knee on George Floyd’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds has only heightened the calls for justice over police killings of Black men.

When Ronald Greene lost his life in 2019, Louisiana State Police told his family he died after his car hit a tree while he was fleeing officers, according to the family’s lawsuit. But this week a leaked bodycam video showed “officers tasing, kicking and dragging Greene, a Black man, who is heard saying ‘I’m scared,’” wrote Issac Bailey. “It’s just the latest in a long line of attempts by police to withhold evidence that makes them look bad or might allow victims or their families to get closer to justice.”

In Pasquotank County, North Carolina, the district attorney announced Tuesday that police would not be charged in the death of Andrew Brown Jr., shot by officers seeking to carry out warrants on drug charges at his home. The “message Womble and those officers have sent to Black residents of that area in particular” is clear, according to Bailey. “They’ve got the guns. They’ve got the badges. They’ve got the backing of the entire system and can do whatever they want, even if it means filling a man’s body with bullets for no good reason.”

There’s an important lesson in the Derek Chauvin case, wrote W. Kamau Bell. “Does Chauvin get arrested or even reprimanded without the activism of Darnella Frazier, who filmed the murder and shared it with the world? Does Chauvin suffer any consequences if people all over the country don’t run to the streets and ignite an international protest movement?”

My answer is no. I believe Chauvin would still have his job and be abusing his power the same way he did before he murdered George Floyd, if not for the power of protest.”

For more on race in America:

Peniel E. Joseph: “The Underground Railroad” uses history, but also makes it

Nicole Hemmer: UNC’s slap at Nikole-Hannah Jones is no isolated incident

What now?

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A ceasefire halted the 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas. The big question is what happens now – not only in the Middle East, but also in the US, where the politics of support for Israel have changed.

“There are no winners in the current battle between Hamas and Israel,” Dean Obeidallah wrote a week ago. “If history serves as a guide … after a ceasefire is reached, the conflict will slowly fade from the headlines, the world will go back to its business and the Palestinians will largely be forgotten – yet again. For those who sincerely want to see a just and lasting peace in the Middle East, this time must be different. The world, and especially the Biden administration, cannot look away but must engage on the question of Palestine. It’s 2021 – a homeland for Palestinian Christians and Muslims is long overdue, as is safety and equality for Palestinians.

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    The hostilities put a spotlight on the “Abraham Accords,” negotiated by Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner. “Kushner’s plan was predicated on a fantasy,” wrote Peter Bergen, “that peace would be achieved by negotiating without the Palestinians and instead by creating warmer relations between the Arab states and Israel. In Kushner’s analysis, the road to peace in Israel ran not through Gaza, Jerusalem and the West Bank, but through the United Arab Emirates.”

    Bergen added, “Trump’s Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin claimed that investments in the West Bank and Gaza were ‘going to be like a hot I.P.O.,’ evoking the Wall Street phrase for an initial public offering of stock. Instead of a hot I.P.O., there is now a hot war.”

    Samuel G. Freedman noted that “the accords reinforced the notion on the right-wing in both Israel and America that somehow the century-long Palestinian national movement had all but disappeared.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s embrace of Trump helped erode support for Israel among American Jews, Freedman wrote. “By aligning Israel with both the Republican Party and the Christian right, Netanyahu tacitly associated it with a series of positions on American domestic issues that are anathema to the preponderance of American Jews who reliably vote Democratic – outlawing abortion, rolling back gay rights, eradicating Obamacare, suppressing voting, and, of course, attempting to seize power through insurrection.”

    In The New York Times, Thomas Friedman argued that there’s a symbiotic relationship between Netanyahu, whose nickname is Bibi, and the leaders of Hamas. Israel’s prime minister “and Hamas each exploited or nurtured their own mobs to prevent an unprecedented national unity government from emerging in Israel – a cabinet that for the first time would have included Israeli Jews and Israeli Arab Muslims together … No, Hamas and Bibi don’t talk. They don’t need to. They each understand what the other needs to stay in power and consciously or unconsciously behave in ways to ensure that they deliver it.

    For more:

    David A. Andelman: Whatever happened to Jared Kushner’s peace plan?

    Lincoln Mitchell: Andrew Yang’s Israel tweet shows what’s changed in NYC politics

    La Russa and the Yerminator

    Yermin Mercedes 0518

    White Sox rookie standout Yermin Mercedes broke an unwritten baseball rule when he swung on a 3-0 pitch in the 9th inning and lofted a 429-foot home run in a game his team was already winning by 11 runs against the Minnesota Twins. But then, as Scott Jennings pointed out, Mercedes’ manager Tony La Russa broke some far more important rules.

    “La Russa castigated his star player for making a ‘big mistake,’ promising some sort of ‘consequence he has to endure here within our family.’ La Russa may have also invited retribution from the other team …” The next night, a Twins pitcher threw at Mercedes’ knees – and fortunately missed. La Russa compounded his mistake by saying he had no problem “with how the Twins handled it.”

    Jennings argued that Major League Baseball “executives should act against La Russa immediately, suspending and fining him heavily at a minimum. The White Sox have grounds to fire him because he clearly supported violence against one of his subordinates. As for Mercedes, thank goodness for players like him, who still see Major League Baseball as a dream worth achieving.”

    Tick, Tick, Tick…

    Four years seems like a long time, but the presidential clout of Joe Biden might be effectively cut short midway through his term if the political winds don’t blow his way, wrote Julian Zelizer. “Democrats could lose their narrow hold on control of the House and Senate in next year’s midterm elections. Biden, a President with unusually extensive experience in Washington, knows this well.”

    “With only a few exceptions, such as FDR in 1934, Bill Clinton in 1998, or George W. Bush in 2002, the president’s party loses seats in the midterms, with an average of 27 House seats since 1946,” Zelizer noted. Biden should act swiftly on his ambitious spending plans, he urged, lest he suffer the fate of Barack Obama, who was unable to enact much of his agenda after Democrats lost the House in 2010. “Tea party Republicans spent the rest of his presidency stifling legislative progress on key issues such as immigration and climate change and pushing the government into dangerous high-stakes showdowns on routine matters, such as funding the government and raising the debt ceiling.”

    The clock is also ticking on Justice Stephen Breyer’s anticipated decision on whether to retire from the US Supreme Court while Biden might have the votes to confirm a liberal replacement who would be young enough to serve for decades. Emory University law professor Michael J. Broyde pushed back against the idea that the 82-year-old Breyer should retire. “Breyer is still producing excellent work and has shown no signs of either ill health or mental decline. There is no reason for him to retire until he is unable to do his job.

    Biden’s choice of a replacement, Broyde noted, “would have to attract the vote of every single Democrat in the Senate – from Sen. Bernie Sanders to Sen. Joe Manchin – to be confirmed along party lines. with the vice president breaking the tie. It is possible that no person would be confirmed for a while with all the problems that might produce on the court with only eight justices, six of whom have been appointed by Republican presidents.”

    Covid-19 on the run

    Covid-19 cases and deaths continued their steady decline, leading The New York Times’ David Leonhardt to write that the pandemic is “in retreat” and “there is now an excellent chance that the retreat is permanent. Victory over Covid has not yet arrived, but it is growing close.

    Laurie Rich Salerno has spent the pandemic with her husband and two young children in West Hartford, Connecticut, reading books like “The Swiss Family Robinson,” sledding, hiking, remote schooling and enjoying being together. She and her husband are vaccinated, but since Salerno has multiple sclerosis, she is concerned that her MS treatment and weakened immune system could put her at higher risk should she contract the virus that causes Covid-19. “With high vaccine rates and Covid-19 numbers falling in our state, we were starting to look forward to going back into the bookstore or out with friends,” she wrote. “Now, with the new CDC rule saying that masking will be required only for unvaccinated people on an honor system – it feels like we’re even more trapped.

    The more people who get vaccinated, the harder it will be for the virus to find susceptible targets. Yet Fox News host Tucker Carlson has lent his prominent platform to vaccine skepticism, Dr. Jonathan Reiner noted. “While Carlson has posed countless uninformed and misleading questions to cast doubt on the safety and efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines, there is one question that he has not answered: Has he been vaccinated against Covid? … In a country where so many people have sacrificed so much to extinguish this brutal fire, Carlson keeps lighting matches.

    Don’t miss

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    Jill Filipovic: Is Bill and Melinda Gates’ divorce any of our business?

    Alexandra Peers: It’s time to chisel the big names off museums’ walls

    Mary Ziegler: This could be the case that takes down Roe v. Wade

    Rani Neutill: I’m 43 and a proud BTS fangirl. You should be too

    Matthew Hoh: What critics of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan get wrong

    Joanna Mikulski and Molly Dillon: How to use American Rescue Plan funds to invest in women

    James R. Clapper Jr. and Keith P. Saddler: As the US leaves Afghanistan, it must fulfill its obligation to interpreters

    Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez: I scraped by to pay for community college. The US can do more for students

    Adel Abdelnaby: Memphis bridge’s unusual design puts it at risk for future problems

    AND …

    The Princes speak out

    William Harry 2017 FILE

    The BBC’s religion editor Martin Bashir, who resigned last week for health reasons, apologized Thursday after a report commissioned by the broadcaster found that he had used forged bank statements to help obtain the 1995 interview in which Princess Diana revealed the depth of her marital problems. Diana’s sons Prince William and Prince Harry spoke out against the behavior of the BBC, which also apologized.

    “It’s not difficult to imagine why the BBC wasn’t initially motivated to investigate further,” wrote Kara Alaimo. “Over 20 million people viewed the interview and we’re still talking about it today. And Princess Diana is hardly the only woman whose suffering or sexuality have been manipulated by the press; members of the media have long – and disgracefully – exploited female interview subjects in order to drive up viewership, readership and clicks …”

    “Just as the Diana interview generated so much fervor by casting her within the trope of a woman scorned (the line that will never die: ‘there were three of us in this marriage,’ a reference to Prince Charles’s love for his now-wife, Camilla), the media pegged Britney Spears as one of the ‘girls gone wild’ it loved to expose so salaciously in the 1990s. Other such targets included Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, Whitney Houston and other young women who captured public fascination.”

    Now, Alaimo pointed out, social media “gives women in the public eye – and the rest of us – powerful weapons to fight back that simply weren’t available in Diana’s day. We must continue to deploy them while calling out this misogynistic behavior for what it is: exploitation.”