The End Times Begin At Bedminster

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Hello, it’s the weekend. This is The Weekender ☕

Before the dust had settled under my and every other shoddily built, six-floor walk-up in Brooklyn Friday, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and other conspiracy theorists of her ilk were already ushering in the end times. 

It’s normal for anything that happens in New York to provoke some sort of racist, xenophobic rhetoric from right-wingers, especially when casting the city as a post-apocalyptic shithole can deepen their religious right supporters’ armageddon-thirsting. The 4.8 magnitude earthquake — which was genuinely a bit frightening for a good 45 seconds — could not be resisted. 

“God is sending America strong signs to tell us to repent. Earthquakes and eclipses and many more things to come. I pray that our country listens. 🙏” Greene tweeted Friday at noon. What exactly “America” is paying penance for in the forms of natural disasters and standard astrological phenomena was not immediately clear. But Greene could stand to do some research on the epicenter of the big, wrath-of-God quake before she tweets.

Coincidence?? 🧐

Besides a few aftershocks (if you live the path of the Lord’s vengeance) here’s what we have on tap this weekend:

  • Kate Riga uses news of the abortion ballot initiative in Florida this week to revisit a phenomenon that predates but has worsened since Trump: Republicans are unable to let democracy win. 
  • Khaya Himmelman spoke with some experts about Trump’s pressure campaign in Nebraska and the bigger-picture threat it poses. 
  • A few members of the Society for American Civic Renewal penned a defense of their all-male secret society in the aftermath of TPM’s reporting on the group. Josh Kovensky responds. 

Let’s dig in. 

— Nicole Lafond

Florida Abortion Organizers Arm Themselves To Fight The Party That Won’t Lose

When I was finishing up my call with Andrea Mercado, executive director of Florida Rising and one of the organizers behind the abortion ballot initiative in the state, she’d just given me a good quote. 

“We can’t let knowing they will attack us or sue us or legislate stop us from protecting abortion access in the third largest state in the country,” she said, referring to state Republican legislators. 

I mostly thought at the time that it’d make a decent kicker, and left it at that.

But the more I think about it, the more I realize that this ethos of the Republican Party dominates nearly everything about our politics. The refusal to lose, Donald Trump’s Big Lie, has poisoned everything, sparking the January 6 insurrection, bringing forth an army of election denying clones, shaping his current campaign around promises of violence if Joe Biden wins. It keeps other Republicans from cutting ties (or, for those brave enough to do it anyway, makes them pay a steep psychic and monetary cost), drives politicians and election workers out of their jobs, forces judges to wade through death threats.

Almost every source I spoke to for my Florida story was absolutely positive that Republican legislators would try to stop the abortion amendment from going into effect if it passes — regardless of the fact that a whopping 60 percent of voters, a broad mandate by any measure, would have to approve it for that to happen.

That would be an act of anti-democratic violence on par with that which Trump has inured the country to in the near-decade that he’s dominated the political stage. And that’s not just rhetorical: Florida is the third-largest state in the country and its second largest abortion provider, per activists. It sits alone in an abortion desert, formerly the only salvation amid the draconian regimes of the southeast. Under the six-week ban that will govern the state in a few weeks, women will certainly become sickened and some might die.

It’s a corrosive rot, the extent of the threat novel in recent history, but also a natural outgrowth of a party that has long relied on minoritarian rule and achieved it through other anti-democratic measures: voter suppression, gerrymandering, refusing to honor other successful ballot initiatives.

The organizers prepare, poring over the language of the amendment for any weaknesses, holding marathon meetings where they brainstorm every possible angle of Republican attack, readying legions of lawyers for the inevitable litigation that would follow passage. They prepare to go up against right-wing courts on both the state and national level and the nearly all-Republican Florida government, even the 60 percent threshold passed (mostly) at the pushing of GOP lawmakers and then-Gov. Jeb Bush (R).

It’s not a fair fight when only one side can lose. But what’s the alternative? 

— Kate Riga

The Rise and Fall of Trump’s Pressure Campaign in Nebraska

Donald Trump’s campaign in Nebraska to change the state’s allocation of electoral votes to a “winner-take-all” electoral system, faced a major legislative hurdle this week after Nebraska lawmakers overwhelmingly rejected the Republican-led bill. 

All 48 states, with the exception of Nebraska and Maine, allocate their electoral votes to the plurality winner of the presidential race. Nebraska and Maine, however, instead, distribute electoral votes by congressional district with additional electoral votes that are allocated to the winner of the state as a whole. In 2020, Joe Biden won one electoral vote in Nebraska even though Trump won the red state by a significant margin

The bill to change this system, which is backed by Trump and GOP Governor Jim Pillen, was rejected with only eight votes in favor and 36 against during a procedural vote on Wednesday night.

Abhi Rahman, National Communications Director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee told TPM, that this effort is an example of “Republicans subverting our democracy to bend down to Donald Trump.”

David Becker, the executive director and founder of the nonpartisan Center for Election Innovation and Research, in an interview with TPM noted that the timing of this effort, just months before the 2024 presidential election, is particularly significant. He said it “would be entirely appropriate” for a state to decide to move to a winner-take-all system, but that it should really be done in the year after a presidential election, before the politics have been played out.

 “Otherwise, it appears you’re just trying to tinker with an election,” he said.

— Khaya Himmelman

SACR Punch

The Society for American Civic Renewal hit back on Friday in the form of an op-ed, written by two board members: Skyler Kressin, an Idaho businessman and southern California expat, and Scott Yenor, a Boise State professor. Close readers will remember that it was Yenor’s use of his Boise State email account for SACR business which opened the door to TPM’s expose — he sent emails with that account which included the group’s founding documents, revealing among other things that the secret society wants to form the staff of a “future aligned regime.”

The new article, titled “Fraternity Against the Great Domestication,” portrays SACR overweeningly benign. It’s a place for men of certain Christian denominations who are interested in discussing “ethical investing, the importance of aesthetics and long-term thinking in urban and suburban development, and the elements of style for men who wish to dress intentionally.” If you go to a meeting, the piece suggests, maybe you’ll come out with an idea for a new nonprofit. Maybe you’ll find yourself in a newfound community, no longer a victim of America’s loneliness epidemic.

As odd as that all seems given the group’s stated aims, there is one interesting note here: they laud their own “ecumenism.” And while that does conveniently omit the group’s exclusion of members all non-Christian religions, and of large Christian sects like Mormonism, it does get at something interesting about those on the Christian right who fervently want to use governmental power to bring American society in line with their strict view of Christian values: it brings conservative protestants and conservative Catholics together. That is an ecumenism which would have been unthinkable 50 years ago. And, now, it’s motivated by a shared view that American society is decadent, waiting for a group of morally upright Christian men to come save it.

— Josh Kovensky

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