We have a republic, but only if we can keep it…

In the aftermath of the violent and illegal raid on Mar a Lago, Texas political science professor Emil Ficker and other patriots have reminded us that we have “a republic,” but only “if you can keep it.” The source of this quotation is a journal kept by James McHenry (1753-1816) while he was a Maryland delegate to the Constitutional Convention. On the page where McHenry records the events of the last day of the convention, September 18, 1787, he wrote: “A lady asked Dr. Franklin Well Doctor what have we got a republic or a monarchy – A republic replied the Doctor if you can keep it.” Then McHenry added: “The Lady here alluded to was Mrs. Powel of Philada.” The journal is at the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress.

Detail of letter from Elizabeth Willing Powel to George Washington
“May you, till the extremest old age, enjoy the pure Felicity of having employed your whole Faculties for the Prosperity of the People for whose Happiness you are responsible, for to you their Happiness is intrusted.” Elizabeth Willing Powel to George Washington, November 17, 1792, George Washington Papers, Manuscript Division.

The “Dr. Franklin” McHenry quotes was, of course, Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), who had presided over the Constitutional Convention, which took place in his home city of Philadelphia; “Mrs. Powel of Philada.” was Elizabeth Willing Powel (1742/43-1830) of Philadelphia. No women served as delegates to the Constitutional Convention so, unlike Franklin and McHenry, Powel did not participate in the creation of the federal Constitution. Despite her exclusion from the Pennsylvania State House, Powel was a force in Philadelphia social and political circles. The money, connections, and positions of authority held by the men in Powel’s family generated the basis of her power. Her father Charles Willing and brother Thomas Willing (1731-1821) were wealthy merchants, and they and her equally prosperous husband, Samuel Powel (1738-1793), were active in Philadelphia’s political and civic life. All three served as mayors of the city.

Another source of Elizabeth Powel’s influence was her own social and political dexterity, which she deployed to make her home a gathering place for the city’s political elite from the revolutionary period through George Washington’s presidency. Among the regulars at Powel’s dinners and parties were George and Martha Washington, with whom the Powels became close friends. Letters exchanged between the couples are in the George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress. One of these, from Elizabeth Powel to George Washington, dates from the third year of Washington’s first term as president, a time when he was hoping he would be able to resign the presidency and go home.

American Democracy
American Democracy

In his 1789 inaugural address, and in many private letters as well, Washington made clear that he was longing to return to his retirement at Mount Vernon. Less than a week after his inauguration, he wrote to former military officer and South Carolina legislator Edward Rutledge that when he accepted his “duty to embark” on the presidency, which he described as “the tempestuous and uncertain Ocean of public life,” he “gave up all expectations of private happiness in this world.” In the fall of 1792, seeing the end of his first term in sight, Washington began planning his exit. Elizabeth Willing Powel was among the friends who convinced him to stay. In her letter she warned him that his political opponents would see his resignation as a sign that he believed the republican experiment had failed and, fearing for his own reputation, had “withdrawn from it that you might not be crushed under its Ruins.” She pleaded with him: “For Gods sake do not yield . . . to a Love of Ease, Retirement, rural Pursuits.”

Rudy Giuliani is right we are a nation of  dumbasses

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American Democracy

Former U.S. Associate Attorney General Rudy Giuliani questioned the intelligence of his fellow Americans during an appearance Newsmax only days after he was informed he is a “target” of a criminal investigation in Georgia for his role in overturning the 2020 presidential election.

Giuliani told host Rob Schmitt about why the American people should think he has credibility along with Donald Trump.

“If the American people don’t know what’s going on by now, then our country could possibly be too dumb to be a democracy,” said the disgraced former attorney under criminal investigation for trying to subvert democracy.

The election denier went on to expound on his conspiracy theories.

“I mean, it is quite obvious that they will frame him with every single thing they’ve got,” the former Southern District of New York U.S. Attorney said.

“And if you don’t realize they stole the election, there’s something wrong here, because a group that would do that,” Giuliani continued as if his delusions were reality “that I just described, in order to first keep him from being president, then destroy him on false pretenses.”

“Of course, they would steal an election and it’s not the first election Democrats stole,” Giuliani alleged without evidence.

The former New York City mayor said, “They know how to steal elections, they run big cities that are crooked.”

Republican Minnesota candidate says people may ‘have to vote with bullets’

In a speech about voting and trust in elections, a Minnesota Senate candidate said people need to “grow teeth” by “voting with a ballot before we have to vote with bullets.”

Stephen Lowell, the GOP-endorsed candidate for Minnesota Senate District 52, said Republicans should vote in droves, comparing the turnout needed to the number of protesters who demonstrated in the Twin Cities after George Floyd’s police murder in 2020.

“We have to vote just like they’re throwing Molotovs up in Uptown. We have to vote just like they burned down buildings… We have to vote as hard as they went out and did that,” Lowell said.

“We need to grow our teeth back, fast. So part of those teeth, in this particular set of terms, is voting with the ballot before we have to vote with bullets” — Stephen Lowell, a GOP-endorsed candidate for a Minnesota senate seat in the Twin Cities suburbs pic.twitter.com/B5LQigB74Y
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) August 18, 2022

Lowell made the remarks in a July 30 speech in Rosemount at the Dakota County Patriot Summer Block Party.

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American Democracy

Lowell doubled down on his comment on Thursday. “Absolutely,” he said in a quote retweet of the video.

An event flier said Republican secretary of state candidate Kim Crockett and Tyler Kistner, Republican candidate running for Minnesota’s 2nd Congressional District, also attended the event.

Senate District 52 covers southeastern Twin Cities suburbs, including Eagan, Mendota Heights, Mendota and some of Burnsville.

Lowell also described how he attended the 2020 Floyd protests and riots with “strapped-on plates and a rifle” and helped protect a tobacco shop near Minneapolis’ Third Precinct after he saw the business owners trying to shoo away protesters.

“It was one of the most saddening things I’d ever seen,” Lowell said.

Later in his speech, Lowell said he’s not afraid to make enemies to change Minnesota’s laws.

“I’m more than happy to lay waste to whatever comes my way,” Lowell said.

Provoked by illegal raid, Trump supporters threaten civil war on TikTok

The videos share a few common themes: they are filmed by an excitable solo protagonist. That protagonist is often addressing fellow “patriots” and asking them to prepare for something very big to happen. They include some veiled or explicit threat of violence in response. And many of them are posted on TikTok, the short-form video app made popular by dancing teenagers.

In the wake of the FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago, threats of violence against federal agents from Donald Trump’s supporters have skyrocketed, according to extremism monitors. Warnings of civil war and veiled threats of violence against politicians have also increased.

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American Democracy

In a departure from the norm, many of those threats are being made in the open, on social media platforms like TikTok, with no attempt to hide their identity.

A collection of TikTok videos collated by one Twitter user included numerous calls for violence against the FBI and the government from Trump supporters.

“I seen what happened to Trump,” one person says in a video while a weapon and ammunition can be seen on a bed behind him. “Yea, it’s go time. Everyone knows exactly what I’m talking about,” he adds.

Other videos include conspiracy theories about IRS agents coming to take their weapons.

In the days after the Mar-a-Lago search, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security issued a joint internal bulletin warning of “an increase in threats and acts of violence” towards federal officials, according to CBS. The bulletin also noted that the names and home address of FBI agents have been posted online, the Associated Press reported.

The bulletin referenced one case in which online threats had resulted in real world violence — the attack on the FBI’s Cincinnati field office in Ohio by a man armed with an AR-15 style rifle and a nail gun. Ricky Shiffer, 42, had posted on Mr Trump’s Truth Social after the search on Mar-a-Lago for supporters to ​“get whatever you need to be ready for combat” before carrying out the attack. He was shot and killed in a standoff after fleeing the scene.

In another case, the FBI arrested a Pennsylvania man on Monday for making threats of violence against FBI personnel. Adam Bies, 46, posted violent threats towards the FBI and law enforcement on the Gab, a social media site popular with white supremacists.

“My only goal is to kill more of them before I drop” and “If You Work For The FBI Then You Deserve To Die,” Bies wrote, according to the Justice Department.

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American Democracy

According to court documents, on 10 August, Bies allegedly wrote: “Every single piece of [expletive] who works for the FBI in any capacity, from the director down to the janitor who cleans their [expletive] toilets deserves to die. You’ve declared war on us and now it’s open season on YOU.”

The spike in violent rhetoric has come at the same time as Donald Trump has repeatedly attacked the FBI and Department of Justice since the search of his Florida residence.

“This is an assault on a political opponent at a level never seen before in our Country,” Mr Trump wrote Monday in a post on his Truth Social. “Third World!” In other posts he claimed that an “army of agents” “raided” his home for political reasons.

The search of Mr Trump’s home by the FBI is part of an investigation into the former president’s handling of classified records taken from the White House following his departure. A property receipt from the search that was unsealed by a federal judge revealed that the FBI had removed 11 sets of classified documents from Mar-a-Lago, including some marked top secret and “sensitive compartmented information.” A warrant that was also unsealed revealed that Mr Trump was being investigated for possible violations of the Espionage Act.

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American Democracy

The rising threats of violence in open forums has raised concern among extremism researchers. Dr Gina Ligon, director of the National Counterterrorism Innovation, Technology, and Education Centre (NCITE) at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, called them “deeply troubling.”

“The calls for violence on open platforms like Tik Tok against FBI-specific symbols of the government are deeply troubling and reminiscent of the calls for violence from ISIS adherents against US military” in 2014 and 2015, she told The Independent.

“Why it matters is that in nearly every case of mass shooters, the plotter had leaked some aspect of his plan beforehand[…] One of the top five indicators from the national counterterrorism centre that someone is actually going to mobilise to violence is sharing a plan publicly against a specific target. These videos are doing just that,” she added.

A further danger of the online calls for violence is the creation of a “false consensus”, Dr Ligon added, which is “the psychological feeling that everyone else agrees that violence is the only answer and must be done. We saw this with ISIS supporters in 2014 — it wasn’t that all the people online engaged in violence, but they created the illusion that they agreed someone should and thus gave the psychological permission — in fact almost implored direction — for others to actually carry out an attack.”

The multitude of threats prompted FBI director Christopher Wray, appointed by Mr Trump in 2017, to publicly denounce them as “deplorable and dangerous.”

“I’m always concerned about threats to law enforcement,” Mr Wray said on Wednesday. “Violence against law enforcement is not the answer, no matter who you’re upset with.”