Cover Image: The Conspiracy to End America

The Conspiracy to End America

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Stuart Stevens was an effective GOP consultant and one of the founders of the Lincoln Project. He is one of many former GOP strategists, consultants, and politicians ringing the alarm bells on the rise of Trump and Trumpism in the Republican party. He lays out the multi-pronged front on which the party is quite effectively attacking democracy as we know it. Each chapter is based on one of these give fronts - such as media/radio personalities or utilizing judicial nominations and legal theories - and addresses the groundwork that was laid prior to the Trump era as well as how it is being utilized and pushed past the point of no return in recent years. Stevens' insights are easy to understand and, in an arena with many voices, stand out as straight forward and tie in logical conclusions based on historical information.

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It's refreshing to read a book by a (former) Republican who actually admits that this was the plan all along, that racism has always been part of the program, and that Trump is saying out loud what the party previously said behind closed doors. Wish there were more hope and/or solutions, but I'm not sure how possible that really is anymore.

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There are a lot of books talking about the fall of the Republican party, and this book makes an important contribution. I used to be a Republican, and I can't begin to imagine how the party decided they support a reality TV star who jokes about molesting underage ladies over family and country.
Stevens explains some of the how and why this is happening, and it is frustrating. I don't know what is going to happen next, but it really could be the end of America as we know it.
Thanks to NetGalley for making this available to me

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I admit that at the start I was not dazzled by this new Stuart Stevens book. It had a lot of references and names and stories from the many other scary books about trump. I had read or heard mentions of these sources in print or on many podcasts and opinion stories. And it is true much of this is a rehash of what we already know.

So what is new here?

The background info he brings if fine but like I said if you looking in this direction you probably knew of much of it. HOWEVER once Stuart comes out swinging for real, he really keeps coming. With a directness and force you didn’t realize you were missing. And really the facts are clear for any that have eyes and ears and with much force Stuart Stevens is shouting to get your attention.

Trump and Trumpism are as pure evil as has existed in mainstream politics, and when I look around, I, too, often see the institutions of America failing the moment. It doesn’t come in the active embrace of Trumpism but in a failure aggressively and unequivocally to reject an authoritarian movement of hate. My fear is that America is learning to accommodate Trumpism, and history is clear that is a gateway drug to democratic collapse. - Location 2284-2287

“Pure Evil” ? Is that too much?
I used to complain in my imaginary political dialogs with people who demonized previous Republican administrations or politicians. I mean sure I thought they were wrong and probably jerks, but that was as far as I would take it, BUT I think with the current situation his comment is not hyperbole. Again for those who have the eyes and ears to look a the facts.

To rise in the Republican Party, it is essential to show solidarity with those who wish to end democracy. - Location 2181-2182

He does have an outline of why he has his vies and they make sense of the obvious (to me) craziness of modern Republicanism

Whenever a democracy slides into autocracy, there are five critical elements at work. All of these are active today in American politics.

The five autocratic building blocks are:
•Support of a major party
•Legal theories to legitimize actions
•Shock troops
- Location 94-98

And he uses known facts and stories to show this is the case.

I wish I could sit and talk with him for a while and ask what he would have said about some of his current opinions that were anathema to Republicans just a short while ago before he was on this track. Like was he also so reasonable about guns?

Walking into a Starbucks with a semiautomatic weapon isn’t proving you have the right to bear arms; it is an assertion that you do not trust society to protect you, that there is no civil bond between you and the next person in line ordering a latte. - Location 2206-2207

And what did he previously think of the Federalist society in the “before times”? Because his take down of them is throughout and SO spot on it is scary. In fact I would say it is one of the core takeaway of the book. So here it is even if it is a bit long for a review.

Taken individually, none of these judicial actions is a death blow to democracy, but collectively, each builds on the previous one. It is a long game played with patience. A timeline tells the story:

1982: The Federalist Society is formed.
1986: Federalist Society superstar Antonin Scalia is nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Reagan.
1991: Clarence Thomas, a Federalist Society member, is nominated by George H. W. Bush. 2000: George W. Bush loses the popular vote to Al Gore but is elected by the electoral college. The Supreme Court rules 5–4 in favor of Bush in the infamous Bush v. Gore case. 2004: George W. Bush is reelected.
2005: Leonard Leo of the Federalist Society creates the Judicial Confirmation Network (later to become Judicial Crisis Network). He raises $15 million from undisclosed donors to run confirmation campaigns supporting Bush Supreme Court nominees.
2005: John Roberts, a Federalist Society member, is nominated to the Supreme Court by George W. Bush.
2005: Samuel Alito, a Federalist Society member, is nominated to the Supreme Court by George W. Bush.
2006: The Federalist Society expands its public relations campaign. Leo comments that “I spend probably close to $800,000 annually on a PR team at the Federalist Society, and we generate press that has a publicity value of approximately $146 million each year.”
2010: The Supreme Court rules 5–4 in the Citizens United decision that corporations have the right to spend unlimited money in U.S. elections. Four of the five deciding votes are cast by Federalist Society members.
2010: redmap is formed by Republicans to focus on redistricting state legislatures to maximize Republican benefit.
2012: With the help of undisclosed “dark” money made possible by Citizens United, conservative Paul Newby is elected to the North Carolina Supreme Court.
2012: North Carolina ends public financing of judicial nominations.
2013: The Supreme Court nullifies key provisions of the Voting Rights Act, which John Roberts first opposed in 1981.
2016: Justice Scalia dies seven months before the presidential election. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refuses to allow hearings or a vote on President Obama’s choice of Merrick Garland as Scalia’s replacement. McConnell says, “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”
2016: Leonard Leo’s Judicial Crisis Network spends $7 million to support the Republican senators running for reelection who refuse to hold hearings on Merrick Garland.
2016–2017: Groups controlled by Leonard Leo raise over $250 million from undisclosed donors.
2016: Donald Trump loses the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by 2.8 million voters but wins the electoral college.
2017: Leonard Leo’s Judicial Crisis Network spends $10 million in support of Trump.
2017: Trump nominates Neil Gorsuch, a Federalist Society member, to replace Justice Scalia. 2017: Leonard Leo’s Judicial Crisis Network spends $10 million supporting the Gorsuch nomination.
2018: Justice Kennedy resigns. Trump appoints Brett Kavanaugh to replace him. Kavanaugh, a Federalist Society member, worked for the two George W. Bush campaigns and in the White House, married Bush’s long-time personal assistant, and was nominated by Bush to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Trump, a president who lost the popular vote, appoints the protégé of a president—Bush—who also lost the popular vote.
2018: The Leonard Leo organization “Freedom and Opportunity Group” donates $4 million to “Independent Women’s Voice,” which runs ads supporting Kavanaugh. Heather Higgins, the group’s president and chief executive, attacks the women who accuse Kavanaugh of sexual assault, saying, “If you have a weak standard of evidence, then what you are doing is guaranteeing that future nominations will all be last-minute character assassinations and circuses.” She is paid $311,000 annually as the leader of Independent Women’s Voice.
2019: The U.S. Supreme Court rules that states are free to gerrymander without review by the state’s Supreme Court. “We conclude that partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts.” Of the justices voting in support of the 5–4 ruling, three have been confirmed by a collection of senators who represented a minority of the country’s population. All are Federalist Society members.
2020: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg dies thirty-eight days before the presidential election. Trump appoints Amy Comey Barrett to replace her. Majority Leader McConnell holds hearings and the Senate vote to confirm her after the presidential election voting has begun in many states. He denies this contradicts his previous refusal to hold hearings on the Merrick Garland nomination during an election year.
2020: Barrett is confirmed and becomes a justice of the Supreme Court. There have been five Supreme Court justices in U.S. history who were appointed by a president elected with a minority of the vote and confirmed by senators representing a minority of the country’s population. With Barrett’s confirmation, all five are currently on the Supreme Court.
2022: $1.6 billion is gifted to the Marble Freedom Trust, a Leonard Leo group.
2023: The North Carolina Supreme Court overturns a previous ruling and allows the Republican-controlled legislature to draw districts by any guidelines they choose.

The 2019 Supreme Court ruling on gerrymandering provides no pathway for appeal. Justice Paul Newby, who was elected post–Citizens United, is now chief justice. What began decades earlier continues to play out, changing the legal basis of American elections. It is the Long Game played patiently and relentlessly with no like effort in opposition. The Republican attack on the electoral system with combined efforts to challenge election results, restrict voting, and control the counting of votes is following the successful blueprint used by the Federalist Society to change the judicial system.
Location 1794-1848

Thanks to NetGalley for letting me get a head start of this important book

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This was an excellent, thought-provoking book. If you don't think that there's a conspiracy to end American, you will after you read this book.

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