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Trump’s State of the Union; his most populist appeal yet

Tonight’s State of the Union address was the president’s most populist appeal to date. He cast opposition to him as antithetical to the national interest, ginned up irrational fear of immigrants, attacked law enforcement agents for investigating crimes committed by his campaign, and blamed outside forces for every one of his administration’s failings. In short, he railed against accountability and cloaked himself in misdirected appeals to patriotism and fraudulent invocations of fear.

Let’s be real: the state of the union is divided, and under continuous attack. The Kremlin continues their efforts to undermine our democracy, while the Trump administration does the minimum necessary to appear concerned with these hostile acts. Rather than fight for America’s democracy, the president would rather fight against those laboring to discover the full truth behind Moscow’s election attacks. And rather than work to bridge the divide in our country, the president’s words of comity were belied by partisan attacks.

America is stronger than our differences, and we are more than capable of handling the challenges that await us. But to do so, we must recommit ourselves to the principles and ideals that define our nation, and reject the populist appeals to fear and division.

Mike Ongstad
Communications Director
Stand Up Republic

Can we stop Trump’s fake emergency power grab?

The president has ramped up his public fear campaign about the southern border, adding a prime-time address and a border visit stunt. With this new effort to scare Americans into supporting him, he’s also threatened a new attack on our ideals, norms and institutions: a declaration of a national emergency to grab power from Congress and act unilaterally. The threat is just the latest evidence that he is not interested in working with Congress or listening to the American people to find a solution.


The question on all of our minds is, can the president declare an emergency that he made up? Here are the facts:


  • The President does have the power to declare a national emergency, even if Congress and the American people know it’s a farce.


  • According to the National Emergencies Act, passed in 1976, emergencies expire in 1 year, unless extended, and are supposed to be reviewed by Congress every 6 months.


  • Congress does have the power to block a presidential declaration of national emergency once it’s been made, by passing a resolution through both the House and Senate.


  • Unfortunately, Congress largely has ignored it’s responsibility to oversee emergency declarations. Congress has never met to review declarations and there are currently 30 such declarations in effect right now.


But just because the president does have the legal ability to declare a fake emergency, doesn’t mean we should allow him to do so unchecked. Congress does have the power to fight back. If President Trump does declare a phony emergency, we will demand that Republicans and Democrats in Congress introduce and pass a bipartisan resolution blocking his dishonest declaration. We hope we can count on your voice of support should that happen.


The president has done everything he can to make us fear immigrants, hoping that he can scare us into giving him whatever he wants. But the emergency we’re facing isn’t from the border, it’s from a president with no respect for the Constitution, the rule of law, or the separation of powers. Trump is hardly the first world leader to be frustrated by the legal constraints on his power, and he certainly isn’t the first to declare phony emergencies to get around them. But wherever authoritarians have used emergency declarations to gain power, it has always come at the cost of liberty.


We cannot accept that in America. We deserve an honest debate on improving our immigration and border security systems. But that’s not what the president wants; he wants to power to act unfettered. Our nation was built on the belief that power must be constrained. Will you stand up with us against this abuse of power?

Announcing SUR’s Electoral Reform Agenda

America’s Constitution revolutionized the very notion of government, and has inspired peoples around the world to realize their freedom and achieve self-rule. But even our Founders knew that they could not design a perfect, unchanging system. Instead, they established sturdy checks and balances as guardrails for liberty and justice in America, leaving the task of further improving our self-government to the people themselves, legislatures across the country, and future generations.


This power for change enabled us to banish the scourge of slavery, recognize the equal rights of all, and build new institutions for transparency and accountability. But we should not declare our evolution complete, or rest on our laurels as new challenges pose new risks to governance structures.


In election laws and practices in particular, we’ve fallen short of realizing our full democratic potential. That’s why Stand Up Republic is proud to announce this electoral reform platform. From innovative ideas to time-tested practices, these reforms will enhance the voice of all Americans, while inspiring more unifying, accountable and effective leadership. These reforms represent another step towards fulfilling the promise of American democracy.


In the coming months and years, Stand Up Republic and its state-level organizations will work in cooperation with other reform-minded organizations and citizens to advance these reforms. We invite all to join us in the cause!


Ranked-choice Voting

Ranked-choice voting allows voters to rank their candidates by preference, incentivizing politicians to appeal to all voters and offer more unifying, accountable and effective leadership rather than catering solely to narrow portions of their natural base. Whether in primary or general elections, at the local, state or national level, ranked-choice voting empowers voters to more fully express their preferences and rewards leaders who build broad constituent coalitions.


Independent Redistricting

The nation’s interests are not well served by partisan-drawn electoral districts intended to guarantee parties easier election wins and to limit their accountability to the people. States should institute independent commissions, whether bipartisan or nonpartisan, to ensure that districts are drawn impartially to enhance competition, accountability and representation of all voters.


Automatic Voter Registration

Voting is the most important civic activity in our system of self-government and it should not be difficult for eligible citizens to participate. Automatic voter registration facilitates participation by allowing citizens to receive their registration automatically through a range of other interactions with the state government, such as obtaining a driver’s license or paying taxes.


Additionally, states should make it easier for residents to obtain official identification, whether it be a driver’s license or another type. There are often hurdles to obtaining an identification that disproportionately impact lower income and minority communities, effectively disenfranchising some eligible voters.


Paper Records for All Votes

Electronic voting machines are common in our digital era and provide important benefits, but they are vulnerable to increasing cyber threats and other tampering. Paper records for all votes help ensure the auditability of our elections and contribute to the legitimacy of their outcomes.


A National Holiday for Election Day

Establishing general Election Day for federal offices as a national holiday will make it easier for millions of Americans to participate in the most fundamental element of our democratic process. Easing the burden of voting on citizens who would otherwise struggle to make it to the polls while enhancing our culture of civic participation will strengthen our democracy.


More Open Ballot Access

Ballot access rules too often make it nearly impossible for citizens to run for office without significant financial resources or major party support. While there is a legitimate need for states to set standards in order to ensure candidates’ basic viability, reasonable ballot access laws should allow third-party and independent candidates to participate in the electoral process.

Stand Up Republic Signs onto letter Supporting New Congressional Rule to Combat Corruption

On September 5th, Stand Up Republic joined with multiple pro-democracy and government ethics organizations urging Congress to pass House Resolution 1043. That resolution would change House rules to prohibit members and officers of Congress from serving on corporate boards.


In the wake of recent insider trading indictments against Congressman Collins, it is clear that something must be done to prevent conflicts of interest and corruption. Stand Up Republic is proud to support this important reform measure and we urge Congress to act now.


Read the letter below.


Legislation Alert: “Defending American Security From Kremlin Aggression Act”

It’s been more than two years since we got the first signs that a foreign government was engaged in a sprawling hacking and disinformation attack against America. We now know, beyond any doubt, that those attacks were directed by Russian President Vladimir Putin. We have proof that Kremlin agents were even here in America orchestrating efforts to influence our elections. Why would they do this? To dictators like Putin, America’s commitment to freedom and liberty and thus free and fair elections is a threat to his despotic power.


What’s more, we know that those attacks continue to this day, and are only becoming more sophisticated. The problem is, nothing is being done to really make Moscow feel the consequences of its actions. The president has routinely watered down, delayed, or even ignored the sanctions that Congress enacted. And even as the attacks raged on against our country, Trump stood up next to our assailant to praise and defend Vladimir Putin.


Praising the man who’s actively working to weaken and divide us…


That’s not leadership. That’s a national security crisis.


Fortunately, in America, our power doesn’t begin or end with the president. Congress has the power — and the duty — to act and force the president’s hand. Already, there’s a bipartisan bill in the Senate which would enact strong and unyielding sanctions against those who attack us. This bill, the Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act, is our best chance to defend ourselves by enacting real consequences for our foes; consequences so strong, that Putin and any other possible adversary won’t be willing to risk such attacks in the future. Deterrence is our best hope for ending the continual assaults on our sovereignty. Congress has a duty to make sure we’re safe from all attacks, no matter how the president feels about the people attacking us. That’s why we’re asking to you join us in supporting S. 3336, the Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act.


Read more about the bill below:




S.3336, or the Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act of 2018, is currently sponsored by Senator Graham and co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of senators: Menendez, Cardin, Shaheen, Gardner, and the late Senator McCain.


This legislation strengthens both Congress’ role defending alliances like NATO as well as its firm stance against Russian interference in America’s elections. The bill, if passed, would require a two-thirds majority from the Senate to withdraw from NATO.


Specifically, some of the more potent actions against Moscow include, but are not limited to: punishing Russia for chemical weapons production and use, requiring the Secretary of State to determine if Russia meets criteria for designation as a state sponsor of terrorism, establishing an Office of Cyberspace and the Digital Economy within the State Department, establishing interference in American elections as grounds for inadmissibility under federal immigration law, establishing federal charges for hacking a voting system under the Defending the Integrity of Voting Systems Act, and a slew of sanctions on key Russian economic sectors and individuals engaged in corrupt or malicious activity.


Why this is necessary:


The current political environment has deferred too much Congressional authority to the Oval Office. This bill would reassert Congress’ constitutional powers and provide a much needed check on the executive branch’s inaction. By strengthening our commitment to NATO, an alliance which Putin seeks to destroy, and applying economic pressure to the Kremlin, this bill will fill the void of inaction left by a president who refuses to act. Safeguarding the international world order that has brought great peace and global prosperity is imperative — and it seems this responsibility now rests on Congress’ shoulders.


Furthermore, this legislation takes an unequivocal stance that Kremlin interference in one of the most essential aspects of America’s democratic republic — free and fair elections — will not be tolerated, but will be met with harsh repercussions. This bill implements sanctions and punishment immediately, rather than waiting for future election interference. As such it is the only bill that provides immediate repercussions for Moscow’s attacks, combatting any ongoing cyber-operations and deterring future attacks from Putin and other adversaries. It is the only way to protect our free and fair elections.


The Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act not only imposes highly targeted and withering sanctions, it reinforces America’s commitment to organizations which Putin seeks to disband and states unequivocally that the Russian government is an adversary of the United States, and of liberty around the world.


Tell Congress to pass the Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act.

Colluding With a Foreign Power to Win an Election is Wrong

With more and more revelations calling into question the president’s insistence that there was “no collusion” between his campaign and Russian operatives, the president’s lawyers are now resorting to the bizarre argument that collusion simply isn’t a crime. It seems to be the last refuge for the embattled administration at this point, but does it even make sense?


Working with Protect Democracy, we dove into the details to explain why it would be a crime to collude with a foreign power to win an election. And just as importantly, why it would be a betrayal of our fundamental American values and a stunning breach of the public trust.


Download the full report here.

‘Jade Helm’ — an Early Kremlin Experiment

Guest Post from SUR Intern, Dakota Stephens.


Jade Helm conspiracy propaganda

At this point it’s a well established fact that Russia has undertaken a campaign to undermine democracy everywhere, including the US, using a variety of tools and techniques. We may not be at the height of the Cold War anymore, and we may not even envision this rivalry in the same ideological terms we once did, but Putin continues to see the United States and the tradition of freedom and democracy as threats to Russian interests. This idea drives Putin’s foreign policy, and thus recapturing this status is not seen as merely a symbol of national pride, but also as a vital security interest. Any democratic impulse is therefore seen as a threat to this interest, and must be dismantled for Russia to regain its stature in the international community.


In the postwar era we have established a number of structures to avoid all-out war, but Russia has become a master of pursuing its goals through less kinetic forms of warfare, such as political warfare, cyber and information campaigns, and a variety of gray-area tactics. Especially when facing its most powerful adversaries, such as the US, Russia opts for tactics that sow discord, distrust, and chaos. It seeks to erode our confidence in the ideas of liberty and equality from which our nation derives its strength. Russia’s attempt to influence the 2016 election brought this issue to the forefront of our national consciousness and caught many by surprise, but it was far from their first bid to weaken and divide America. Several similar efforts took place prior to this one, almost certainly to test the waters before they embarked on such a significant operation.

Jade Helm propaganda

The 2015 Jade Helm conspiracy is one such example of Russian interference that preceded — and likely directly contributed to — their decision to meddle in the 2016 election. A military training exercise took the internet by storm when a number of conspiracies spread that it was a cover for something far more sinister. The actual conspiracy theories varied. Some believed it was an Obama plot to implement martial law, or take people’s guns, or imprison political opponents. Some theories even speculated the involvement of Blue Bell ice cream trucks or Walmart military bases. Notably, as these stories began to spread, so too did a parallel conspiracy that Russia was coming to the aid of Texas rebels to prepare them for an impending civil war. Concern over the training exercise became so widespread that Governor Abbott responded by sending a letter to the Texas State Guard telling them to “monitor the situation”.


A recent interview of former CIA and NSA director Michael Hayden revealed that this irrational paranoia didn’t arise organically, but was actually a test case using Russian bots and alt-right media to see if information campaigns like these could work. According to Hayden, Governor Abbott’s letter to the State Guard legitimized the conspiracy both domestically and in the minds of Russian intelligence officials. In Hayden’s analysis, this signalled the success that these types of operations could achieve at the highest levels of US government, and likely gave them the confidence to employ similar tactics in our elections. Jade Helm is just one example in a long history of Russian attempts to divide Americans and incite turmoil, but this case demonstrated that their operations could create such a high level of panic that they could influence elected US officials.


This was hardly an isolated event. In keeping with their goal of driving a wedge in American society, previous Russian operations promoted secessionist movements by stoking xenophobia, nativism, and white nationalism. They harnessed these past initiatives to amplify Jade Helm and target the audience most likely to be influenced by the conspiracy. They also utilized social media bots to fuel the stories, while conspiracy sites like Alex Jones’ InfoWars immediately jumped on the opportunity to push the false narrative of a coming civil war. A letter from a supposed Texas Ranger to the Common Sense Show also spread the rumor that trains with shackles were going to be used to transport prisoners. In the end, Russia enjoyed substantial support from alt-right media sources in promoting a conspiracy that had no basis in reality.


It’s certainly difficult to trace Russian disinformation efforts as a whole back to a single event, but in this case we have a former intelligence chief making the analysis that Jade Helm directly led to the Russian effort to influence our elections at the highest level. It can often be easy to dismiss the issue of fake news and conspiracies as minor problems that don’t play a significant role in our society, but the Jade Helm case is strong evidence to the contrary. It highlights the potential dangers of our information consumption and the precautions we must take before posting anything online. In the short term, we may inadvertently cause warrantless panic and instability, and in the long term we may contribute to a myriad of unintended consequences, and perhaps even embolden our enemies.

DELIVERED: More Than 22,000 Petitions to Protect Mueller Delivered to Congress

For months we’ve warned of increased threats to the independence of Robert Mueller’s investigation into Moscow’s attacks on our democracy and potential Trump campaign involvement. President Trump has made it clear that he wants to stop the investigation, and his desperation grows as it involves his business partners, campaign staff and family. That’s why we’ve continually asked for your help to urge Congress to pass institutional protections for the Special Counsel.


Thousands of you have answered that call by signing petitions, contacting your members’ offices and showing up at townhall meetings to protect Mueller. In part thanks to your efforts, Republicans in Congress who have been reluctant to cross the President have expressed their support for Mueller, and now legislation to protect him is finally moving in the Senate.


Proving that this investigation is far from over, on Monday FBI agents in New York who were referred potential evidence from Mueller’s team raided Trump’s personal lawyer’s office. Seizing information from the lawyer to the president is no small matter: to receive the warrants to do so, the FBI required credible evidence of a crime. As expected, the warranted law enforcement action brought significant outrage from the President and resulted in reports that Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is in the president’s crosshairs. The President could fire Sessions or Rosenstein at any point.


That’s why we must keep our efforts going. Yesterday, we delivered more than 22,000 signed petitions to the U.S. Capitol demanding that Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell act now to protect the Special Counsel. I wouldn’t say that our message was exactly “welcomed” on the Hill. Lugging boxes of petitions through security proved to be a challenge. And when we arrived at Speaker Ryan’s office, we found the door locked. Ryan’s office refused to accept our petitions and turned us away. Not to be deterred, we carried your petitions to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s office, where they graciously accepted them. But at the end of the day, we delivered your message to both the House and Senate leadership.



Pressure on Congress works, and we need you to stay in this fight. Call your senators and representative every day to demand that they support legislation to protect the Mueller investigation (The capitol switchboard number is: (202) 224–3121). Already, Senators Graham, Coons, Tillis, and Booker are working on a compromise bill to do just that. They need our support, and the rest of Congress needs our pressure to do the right thing.


So, thank you for signing our petition to protect Mueller. Your dedication to our democratic ideals and institutions is not in vain, and the fight is not over. If you missed the chance, the first time, you can still add your name here: And please, call your members of Congress today to demand they stand up for the rule of law.

Summer Communications Intern

With the two major political parties moving toward ideological extremes and embracing populist rhetoric and demagoguery, Stand Up Republic unites Americans across the political spectrum around the ideals of liberty, equality and truth. The future of America depends on defending the democratic norms, ideals and institutions that have sustained our progress for nearly 250 years such as freedom of speech, the press and religion, rule of law and separation of powers.


While we as a nation hold our leaders accountable to basic Constitutional principles, we must also work to address new challenges to our individual and collective prosperity such as technology-driven disruption to the way we work, live and relate to each other. Stand Up Republic, along with Stand Up Ideas, puts country over party to identify solutions and facilitate the conversations necessary to sustaining the health and prosperity of America. We must address looming threats to American democracy with reason and resolve rather than enable demagogues to exploit cultural anxieties and divide the country.


The communications team is an essential component of the larger Stand Up Republic effort to promote America’s democratic norms, ideals, and institutions. We work not only to promote our own materials and viewpoints, but to amplify important voices and news relevant to our priorities. The communications intern will be a valued member of the team, whom we expect to be as committed to substantive work in democracy promotion as they are to learning the trade of communications. This position is located in Washington, DC.


Our Communications Intern May Be Required To:

Research stories and articles relevant to SUR/SUI mission

Aid in drafting social media posts and planning social campaigns

Provide editorial support for internal and external products

Provide design feedback for visual elements

Draft language for press releases, blog posts, or other written copy

Other duties as assigned


Desired Qualifications

Academic work in the field of communication and/or political sciences

Demonstrated skill in writing and editing

Commitment to SUR’s organizational ideals




Please send a resume, cover letter, and one short writing sample to: with subject line: SUMMER COMMUNICATIONS INTERN.

Urgent Action Needed: Call Congress to Protect the Mueller Investigation

As Mueller’s investigation moves closer to Trump’s business dealings and campaign, the President will stop at nothing to sabotage the Special Counsel’s work. Trump falsely claims his moves are “good for democracy” even while making it clear he has a vendetta against the DOJ and the FBI.


We must act now. And we have an opportunity — today — to get Republicans to protect Mueller’s investigation.


This week, Congress will attempt to pass a $1.3 trillion dollar omnibus spending bill to continue to fund the government. Because the omnibus bill is the only way Congress can fully fund the government, it’s the best vehicle to force a vote on protecting the Mueller investigation. Already, Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) has said this is the best opportunity to protect Mueller and ensure that he and his team finish their important work.


Let’s keep the pressure up.


1.) Call your Representative:



2.) Call your 2 Senators:



3.) Call a friend and ask them to do the same.


We must keep the pressure up until enough of our representatives have signed onto this crucial legislation. We don’t know what Robert Mueller and his team have found or will find. What we do know is that his investigation must continue without interference. Tell Congress that they have an obligation to ensure the independence and integrity of the Mueller Investigation, because truth still matters.