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Saturday, February 27, 2021
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  • FORT WAYNE – Here are the impacts of the second impeachment of former president Donald John Trump: 1.) Chants of “Kill Mike Pence” from large numbers of conservative rioters, at more than one location, was spine-tingling and chilling. Those who watched it in context will likely never forget it. The absurd anger was scary and ugly. This should have been a wake-up call to every Indiana Republican elected official. Mike Pence had been a loyal ally of President Trump until Trump asked him to directly violate the Constitution. “Hang Mike Pence” could easily become any elected official when confronted by a “hang anybody not 100% with us” mob. Indiana Democrats only need to worry when they become politically relevant again. Democrats in other states, however, should also be worried about the increasing willingness of mobs to be incited by exaggerated political rhetoric. Continued out-of-control rhetoric will have escalating consequences. 2.) Vice President Mike Pence was likely the biggest “winner” from the impeachment trial. It is far too early to say whether he will benefit politically. However, in the eyes of history he will become a legend in the story of the only assault on the Capitol of the United States by Americans. The second highest official in the nation. A man betrayed by his president. Eerily close to potential serious bodily harm. Guardian of free elections. A true profile in courage, not a rhetorical one. Even liberals are likely to give him credit because it makes Trump seem worse.
  • FORT WAYNE – The political fallout from the U.S. Capitol riots will continue to emerge for some time, months and possibly years, and vary over the longer haul from the immediate. Here are some guesses on impacts in different areas, but everything is always dependent upon unforeseeable variables as well. 1.) False claims of fraud likely destroyed election reform in the short-run. When President Trump called people to Washington to “persuade” Congress to overturn the electoral vote, and the mob storms the U.S. Capitol Building and terrorizes Congress, they made election reform toxic in the short-term at least. Real concerns that actually need to be discussed so future elections aren’t stolen, not trumped-up allegations about unproven fraud, have been subsumed by false ones. Instead of reform and putting the Democrats on the defensive, reform instead will likely be dismissed by a public increasingly sick of all the fighting as just more Republican unsubstantiated whining about Trump losing. It is also not an investigation when you have announced your conclusion in advance of any evidence. 2.) Republican primary challenges to pro-impeachment voters. Those who voted for the second impeachment of President Trump will likely have primary challenges if they run for reelection. Given that those who voted for impeachment probably were already less than worshipful to Trump, they probably would have had a primary challenger anyway. Perhaps their challengers will be more qualified than expected, but that is still unknown. 

  • FORT WAYNE – These last few weeks have been a particularly tumultuous political brawl in our democratic Republic. Wednesday it changed to sustained violence. Excuses must stop. It is well past time to stop defending and excusing incendiary rhetoric that resulted in such behavior.  It is one thing to raise concerns about potential fraud in voting. There were policies implemented in an attempt to get around the dangers of COVID that were potentially vulnerable to large scale cheating. But “potentially” is not the same as actual fraud. Ballots in the challenged states were counted and recounted. There were 50 some court cases dismissed, without even being viewed as meritorious enough to have a trial. It became increasingly apparent, in legal terms, that the effort was not about proving fraud, but using the courts to convince supporters of President Trump that the election was stolen. No evidence, but because the courts dismissed the cases it was portrayed as de facto proof that the system was protecting itself from Trump. It was a cover-up. Then the states certified the results. Every state. Whether governed by Republicans or Democrats, every single state verified the results. In 2012, Mitt Romney received 47.2% of the popular vote for President. In 2020, Trump received 46.9%. Trump claimed that was because of California, which of course has been part of the count since it became a state in 1850. It is, in fact, the most populous state by far. But it should be noted that election victory comes from winning the Electoral College. This brings us to last night. The cause of the mob riot and attempt to seize our nation’s Capitol Building was the belief – falsely alleged again by Trump just before the riot – that the election was stolen. The constant attacks on the credibility of our government as a swamp, as untrustworthy in all respects, has fueled an anger that just boiled over. 
  • FORT WAYNE – Regardless of what happens next in his life, the last four years have been a remarkable experience for Vice President Mike Pence. There have been 48 vice presidents in U.S. history. Former Vice President Joe Biden will become only the third to be elected to the office since Abraham Lincoln (the other two were Richard Nixon and George H.W. Bush). The others first achieved office through the death of a president. In other words, being vice president is not a safe ticket to the presidency. However, Vice President Pence was unique among vice presidents. Most vice presidents had roles similar to the colorful description given the position by former powerful House Speaker James Garner that it “wasn’t worth a bucket of warm spit.” In other words, even powerful figures on Capitol Hill like Garner and later Lyndon Baines Johnson, watched that power be sapped away by aggressive presidents with clear agendas and a cadre of individuals who understood government and how to utilize its power as a team. President Trump had some potential problems from the very beginning. He was clear on a few things he wanted; for example, a wall along the entire southern border, withdrawal from Afghanistan as part of no more foreign wars, limitations on free trade, and an emphasis on nationalism not internationalism.

  • FORT WAYNE – Important fact number one: Al Gore did not concede to presumed President-elect George Bush until Dec. 13, 2000. The political system survived. Of course, that was Gore’s second concession. He took his first one back until the process went through the courts. Surely the media would not prefer that Donald Trump had conceded and then taken it back after supporters raised issues of fraud? It is important to establish some more basic points. A president-elect is designated after the Electoral College votes and before a president is sworn into office. It is not anointed by the media. By all evidence presented thus far, and likely to be presented, former Vice President Joe Biden is the presumed president-elect. This isn’t a repeat of 2000, one state with an incredibly close count, but a fairly decisive apparent win though with many narrow victories for Biden: Georgia 0.3%, Arizona 0.3%, Wisconsin 0.6%, Pennsylvania 1.2%, Nevada 2.4% and Michigan 2.6%. Given the closeness and the extraordinary changes in voting patterns, an election not primarily determined in private voting booths on Election Day, the apparent losing candidate has a right to pursue legal questions that arise. The fact that the media is demanding an immediate coronation is not professional journalism. Neutrality was lost earlier, but even feigned neutrality – nodding here and there to fairness – has been abandoned for overt cheerleading, complete with tears. Vice President Biden, on the other hand, has remained publicly calm. He has a commanding lead, understands that no proof of significant fraud looms, and has confidence in the legal system.
  • FORT WAYNE – Election day and election night were for much of my life intense experiences of adrenalin rush, excitement and tension. My first thrilling experience was in 1980. I was standing in front a television set, watching Ronald Reagan win the presidency and Republican Senate candidates topple one Democrat legend after another, including our Congressman Dan Quayle upsetting Sen. Birch Bayh. It was a Republican wave. In 1994, I was part of another Republican wave (a tsunami), when I upset Congresswoman Jill Long as part of the Republican Revolution in the U.S. House, when for the first time in 40 years Republicans took control. The Dems had held power for so long, as new Speaker Newt Gingrich said, we found rooms we didn’t know existed in the Capitol Building. The Dems thought they could continue their blue wave of 2018 this year, humiliating President Donald Trump, winning control of the Senate, and advancing to a more stable control of the U.S. House. Instead they ran into a purple wave. Here is how you define a purple wave: You have red areas (definition: Indiana) and blue areas (definition: California), and among them you have a bunch of states that cast millions of votes, yet the next day (e.g. Wisconsin, Michigan) the presidential candidates are separated by less than 1%. 
  • FORT WAYNE – Here are some thoughts on the final days. 1.) The final debate was Trump’s best. It stopped his polling slide, at least temporarily, that had accelerated after his bullying performance in the first debate and the further confusion after he skipped the second. His gains, however, were not large and may have come too late. 2.) The Senate races are interesting, both because of the importance of Senate control but also as indicators of the presidential race. Before the final debate, it seemed as though the Democrats would have seized Senate control had that been election day. Since the debate, the Republicans have gained 2-4 points in key seats, making the Republican maintenance of control riding heavily on two Georgia seats and the North Carolina race. Minnesota has become surprisingly close in some polls and a strong candidate in Michigan is at least competitive. Iowa and Arizona are again basically tied.  3.) Trump has more intensely loyal supporters. So did Goldwater and McGovern. Intense support does not always correlate to representing wider support. Trump, unlike the aforementioned, does have a second group: People who don’t particularly respect him but fear the policies of his opponents. Trump also has a larger core (i.e. the Plains states, Indiana and most of the deep South) than Goldwater and McGovern did. And there are a large number of states that are still competitive in the Great Lakes (including Pennsylvania), Texas and Florida (which are now the second and third largest states), as well as scattered others (e.g. Arizona).
  • GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. — Over the years, alliances and issues change, but Indiana Republicans like to battle over differences. The fact is, so do Indiana Democrats. Every state does this. We just do it better. Contentious times on issues lead to divisions within and among parties. So do controversial individuals and internal power struggles. In 2020, we have all those things. Gov. Eric Holcomb has a few huge advantages in his reelection campaign. The biggest is our state’s modern history of stability through all chaos.  The Indiana gubernatorial two-party victory margins were: 1984 (5%), 1988 (6%), 1992 (25%), 1996 (5%), 2000 (15%), 2004 (7%), 2008 (17%), 2012 (3%), and 2016 (6%). Two facts jump out: 1.) the three wide margins (1992, 2000, and 2008) were reelection campaigns of Governors Bayh, O’Bannon and Daniels and 2.) otherwise, for nearly four decades, the two political tribes in Indiana have been fairly evenly matched. The Republicans have won only one race with a margin of more than 7% since the Ronald Reagan sweep year of 1980. However, it takes a ground shift for an Indiana governor to lose a reelection campaign. In fact, no elected governor (Joe Kernan had been elected as lieutenant governor) has EVER been defeated for reelection. 

  • FORT WAYNE – The appalling presidential debate was certainly an embarrassing spectacle for our nation. Two old men, who worked to remember their talking points and leaned heavily on insults to cover it, seemed more like fighting school children, who in frustration with their inability to make a point, resort to name-calling. Given that one of two is going to be the next president, let’s attempt to discuss – without yelling and interrupting – some of substance of what each candidate tried to say on some key issues. COVID-19: If you feel COVID-19 was handled poorly by the federal government at the very beginning, Biden clearly won this point. Trump appealed to the skeptics and to those who fear that continuing enforcement of tough restrictions is going to destroy their livelihood. The stubborn refusal of Trump, and many of his supporters, to focus on masks, even to the point of mocking Biden’s rather posturing use of them, may become actually the most telling factor over time among swing voters. Also, Trump’s blabbing to “Rage”  author Bob Woodward on what he knew early about the issue but did little (in spite of his claiming otherwise) to demonstrate any targeted leadership, may gain some traction but gets largely lost in Biden’s muddled messaging.
  • FORT WAYNE –  Most people would consider this to have already been a rather contentious election cycle. The death of America’s favorite liberal Supreme Court justice, Ruth Bade Ginsburg, as the absentee ballot process has begun, should calm things down. Yeah, right. While in historical terms this one lacks wars and assassinations, or even an economic collapse, the personal anger and tribal divisions are high. In the past, the basic stability of the system has enabled us to withstand chaos. But to this writer, some worrisome trends that attack our systems’ core are greater risks than most issues we are debating. Here are several examples: A declining trust in the legal system. This has been an anchor of maintenance of order. Without order, there is no freedom. Defunding the police, or reducing funding in high crime areas in particular, is a corollary to this problem. Direct attacks on capitalism, with growing support for socialism. Our capitalist system has been critical to the material condition of modern man worldwide. The collapse of the goals of traditional morality. This is across the board, not just the sins we commonly think of, but also flagrant lying and refusal to acknowledge it when caught, coarseness in public debate, casual opportunistic thieving as legitimate protests evolve into uncontrolled opportunities to steal, an unwillingness of local governments to enforce or even cooperate with enforcing federal laws they don’t like, and many more manifestations.
  • FORT WAYNE – It wasn’t the governor who defeated Curtis Hill, though he was not a Hill advocate. It was not the state chairman or the party organization. It took a strong candidate like Todd Rokita to win, but it was not Rokita who defeated Hill. The winner at the 2020 Republican Convention was the ABC coalition: Anybody But Curtis. In spite of an extraordinary record, in my opinion, and his campaign skills, ultimately his personal behavior defeated him. Been there, done that. Conspiracy theories are the mainstream these days, on the left and the right. And theoretically, a state convention – a virtual state convention at that – should be a political boss’s dream. But it is not even clear that they even control delegates anymore, who used to be handpicked to reflect the local party’s convention goals. Grassroots organizations matter much less in congressional races and certainly are not as relevant in statewide races. They become media hooks for television cameras, newspaper stories, and radio clips. Of course, none of them is as relevant any more either. Money matters. Lots of it. Self-funders are increasingly important.   But if there is anyplace that the older system should matter, it should be in a convention especially if there is not a clear delineation of who is the Trumpiest.
  • FORT WAYNE – Traditional media grassroots reporting has shriveled. Without large congregations of people, not to mention the waiting on results that often come days later, predicting results is on even more unstable ground. The Indiana Democrats, in hindsight, provided one of the most exciting convention contests in Indiana history. Former Evansville Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel defeated Portage State Sen. Karen Tallian, 1057 to 1009. When 2,000 delegates vote and the margin is 48, it is a cliff-hanger by any definition. Had 25 voters switched, Tallian would have won. Some 17% of the delegates didn’t vote, which means around 300 of them. I’ve done many, many whip counts.  Nothing is more difficult than not knowing who is voting in a close contest.  Narrowly nominating Weinzapfel over Tallian did spare the Democrats the illogical slate of two of their top three candidates being from The Region. It should raise some concern among Republicans because it means that, albeit by only a switch of 25 voters, the Democrats may not be as focused on making strategic mistakes this year.  But the two Democratic candidates at least represented some chaos control the Republicans do not have. Attorney General Curtis Hill and former Congressman Todd Rokita have both won many elections and have somewhat defined support. Were this a primary, and barring millions being spent by any challenger (a huge assumption in this era), they would be the clear favorites.  But it isn’t a primary; it is a chaotic COVID “Kind-of-Convention.” I’ve tried to analyze Facebook endorsements and chatter for the four candidates that include Nate Harter and John Westercamp. This does not include all of them but was representative through June 24. It does shed light.


  • FORT WAYNE — President Donald Trump has had a good week. The political standards have been lowered, so to phrase it another way, compared to any alternatives, the President has had an excellent week. It is reflected in polling numbers closer to 50s than the 20s.  In addition to the on-going strength of the economy, three things led to this mini-boom for Trump. 1.) The Democrats’ utter and complete failure on impeachment; 2.) His comparatively disciplined State of the Union address and; 3.) It was Democrat chaos. We’ll discuss those in order. Impeachment was cheapened by the Republicans going after President Bill Clinton. Disgust with his personal behavior and repeated abuses of his power, led to an anger that translated into a “gotcha” over his personal behavior and attempts to cover it up. The focus was on the first count of second-degree perjury and, unless you hated Clinton so much that you didn’t care, it was merely a partisan exercise. Republicans knew going in that conviction was impossible.  In 2019-2020, the Democrats, frankly, did something even more misguided. The underlying motives were the same: They hated Trump, they believed he did a host of things wrong that were worse than the alleged Ukrainian abuses of power, and they knew that a Republican Senate was not going to convict.  
  • FORT WAYNE — F. Scott Fitzgerald issued a book called “Crack-Up” in 1945. He made an observation that “the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” Conservative writer R. Emmett Tyrrell wrote two books in the 1980’s called “The Liberal Crack-Up” and “The Conservative Crack-Up,” in which he discussed the incongruities within each movement. They, in his words, “resuscitated the term” F. Scott Fitzgerald had used. In other words, neither internal contradictions nor the seeming eminent break-up of political parties is a new concept. In recent state and city elections in Indiana, the Republican Party, particularly in the suburban and higher-income areas, is showing some very sharp fissures. The Democrat Party divisions could not have been more sharply illustrated than when the far-left flank shockingly toppled incumbent Congressman Joe Crowley of New York in a primary. He was a top favorite to be the replacement for leader Nancy Pelosi, until he was purged.

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  • FORT WAYNE – In a year when introducing yourself as an incumbent mayor in many Hoosier cities was akin to being known as the carrier of a transferable, incurable disease, Mayor Tom Henry romped to a fourth consecutive victory with over 60% against a relatively strong candidate (e.g. smart, organized, very well-funded).  It is the sixth straight Democrat triumph in the Fort Wayne’s mayoral race. In other words, there has not been a Republican mayor in the 21st Century.  The only two Republicans to have won in the last 50 years (since Harold Zeis in 1967) – one-term Robert Armstrong in 1975 and Paul Helmke in 1987 – were greatly aided by legal problems of the incumbent Democrats. Helmke won three times, and only left office in 1999 to seek and win the Republican nomination for the United States Senate. Yet some Republicans continue to peddle the falsehood that Fort Wayne is a Republican city. It is not.
  • FORT WAYNE – The U.S. Senate election in Indiana was perceived to be a pivotal showdown for control of that body. It was supposed to be another test of the Republican-lite strategy employed by Evan Bayh to carry Indiana, a method he conceived after watching his father fall in an upset to Dan Quayle in 1980.  What is hard to remember, even for those who remember that there were two Bayhs, is that the time span from 1980 until now is the same amount of time between Truman’s transition to Eisenhower and 1980. Things change, even in Indiana. Since Evan Bayh was crushed by Todd Young in 2016, the question lingered: Would Joe Donnelly become the new Evan Bayh?
  • FORT WAYNE - On thing will be certain next Tuesday: If Mike Braun defeats incumbent Sen. Joe Donnelly, it will be Trump who won the race. The president is making sure that is clear to everyone by making repeated appearances in Indiana, including stops the day before the vote. Obviously, internal polling – far more frequent (probably daily), possibly by the Brad Parscale operation – is optimistic that Braun will win or it is unlikely that the president would risk his political reputation on Indiana. His advisors also clearly understand that turnout is the key, or he would not be appearing in Fort Wayne on Monday night. There are some interesting subtexts going on as well. Normally when a key battle is in the home state of a sitting vice president, the closing arguments would be from the vice president. Clearly, Trump wants this victory to be seen as his victory, not that of Mike Pence. The vice president has changed his personal emphasis since joining with Donald Trump. Mike Pence recognized the potency of Trump as a brand. In government, as he was in business, Trump is obsessed with the brand “Trump.” He wants it to be seen as his version of classy and, most importantly in his mind, be perceived as a winner. Everything must be the best ever. He makes no apologies. He just keeps moving forward with new greatest things and assumes people will forget any past mistakes.  
  • FORT WAYNE – Will this nonsense never end? Joe Donnelly’s brother moved a plant to Mexico, like many other such plants. Joe earned some income and then sold his stock. It was a small percentage of his income. Oh yeah, and the axe he uses in an ad appears to have been made in Mexico. Mike Braun’s company sold auto parts made in China and Mexico. Like every other auto parts store. And some of the boxes were even labeled in Chinese and English!  These incessant ads that badger us if we try to watch television or listen to the radio, since they cancel each other out, now turn on “He lied, but he lied worse. No, he lied worse. No, you lied more.” They act like six-year-olds facing off in front of their parents. Beyond these inane ads, there are a few other things going on in the campaign. 1.) Braun’s campaign is among the worst Senate campaigns in my lifetime. I’m not saying that he is wrong on issues, not qualified to serve as senator, a poor businessman, or anything else. Just that he has run an awful campaign. No grassroots, little money beyond his own, and after his terrific primary ads, in the fall campaign they’ve been terrible, or boring.
  • FORT WAYNE – A modern-day Rip Van Winkle, who just woke up and started to watch ads on television for the Indiana Senate race, might fairly conclude that Hoosiers are obsessing over how to choose between a candidate who had stock in a company run by his brother that had a plant in Mexico and one whose auto supply company sold parts made in China.  While I know some of you may have been losing sleep over this dilemma, it is obviously somewhere between 98% and 100% irrelevant in this race. It was apparent from the day the media first reported about Mexico Joe’s stock and his sale of it, that the ads would be coming. It was also apparent – in fact, I predicted it during the primary campaign – that anyone owning any automobile parts business (actually any retail store) would be vulnerable to a “you sell parts made in China” slam.  But all choices of what ads to run are instructive – about the candidates, about their allies, and frankly about us, the voters.  First, the obvious: Race matters, just talk about it indirectly. John Mutz lost his close gubernatorial race largely because of an ad that attacked him for bringing in a Japanese plant to Tippecanoe County, back when such things were inflammatory. It was a winking reference, but it was effective. Had it been more direct, it could have led to backlash. Instead, it effectively raised the point. The Japanese were getting our money.  

  • FORT WAYNE – In a contest in which two candidates were jockeying to prove who liked Trump best and a third who is actually like Trump, it is not surprising that Donald Trump again won an Indiana primary. The battle of the three Wabash College grads was not pretty. On the Tuesday night, I was watching the five o’clock news on WANE-TV and something dramatic seemed to be missing. Then I realized what when an ad for a colonoscopy came on and it seemed almost refreshing.  Here are initial observations on the Tuesday results of the Republican Senate primary. The Basics: 1. Having a geographical home base still matters in a competitive race, though not as much as it once did. Congressman Messer did very well in his congressional district but fared poorly elsewhere. Congressman Rokita’s best areas were in his congressional district and Lake County, his county of birth. He didn’t do as well as Messer did in his home base, but he competed closely with Braun across northern Indiana (where Messer was swamped) and competed well in southwest Indiana. Braun won by large margins in southwest Indiana, winning his home county of Dubois with 84% of the vote. He showed more hometown strength than either of the congressmen. He also won 2/3 of the counties in the state and finished second where he didn’t win. Most importantly, Braun won all of the big counties except Lake. 

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  • Carson voted for $1.9T relief bill; GOP opposed
    “A year into the COVID-19 pandemic, the ongoing devastation in our communities is inconceivable. We have tragically lost more than 12,000 Hoosiers to this deadly virus. In addition, the economic and emotional toll of this pandemic is harming countess families and threatening countless futures. We have to do everything in our power to overcome this immense challenge. Democrats promised more action and more relief to meet this moment, and through this legislation we are working to make good on that promise.” U.S. Rep. André Carson (D-Indianapolis) voted in favor of H.R. 1319, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which passed the U.S. House. This sweeping legislation implements President Biden’s plan to address the ongoing public health and economic crises brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The $1.9 trillion-dollar relief bill funds aggressive action to crush the virus and vaccinate Americans, keep kids in school safer, provide $1,400 direct payments to families in addition to December’s $600 down payment. U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Jimtown) and her six Indiana Republican colleagues voted against the bill, saying, "As safe and effective vaccines get us closer to ending this pandemic, we should be focused on defeating coronavirus, getting Americans back to work, and helping small businesses recover. Instead, Democrats tossed bipartisanship aside for a rushed, one-sided, $1.9 trillion spending bill – with less than 9% actually going to fight COVID. There hasn’t even been a full accounting of $1 trillion in unspent relief funds, but Speaker Pelosi wants taxpayers to foot the bill for trillions more." 
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  • HPI Power 50: Crisis shapes 2021 list

    By BRIAN A. HOWEY
    and MARK SCHOEFF JR.

    INDIANAPOLIS – After two decades of publishing Power 50 lists in the first week of January, this one comes in a true crisis atmosphere. As we watched in horror the U.S. Capitol being overrun by supporters of President Trump on Wednesday, the COVID-19 pandemic has killed more than 8,000 Hoosiers and 350,000 Americans, shutting down our state and nation for nearly two months last spring. While vaccines are coming, there will be a distinct BC (Before COVID) and AC delineations as this epic story comes to a close. It gripped like a vise key figures, from Gov. Eric Holcomb to Vice President Pence. It delayed an election, closed schools and restaurants, reordered the way we do business and buy things, and will set in motion ramifications that we can’t truly understand (like the virus itself) at this point in time. There’s another crisis at hand. It’s our society’s civics deficit, fueled by apathy that transcends our schools and societal engagement, and allowed to fester by a news media in atrophy. That three members of the Indiana congressional delegation – U.S. Sen. Mike Braun and Reps. Jim Banks and Jackie Walorski – signed on to a protest this week, induced by losing President Donald Trump to “investigate” widespread vote fraud that doesn’t exist, is another indicator of the risks a polarized and undisciplined political spectrum brings to the fragile American democratic experience.

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