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Latest Narrative Analysis News Summary

May 1-15, 2023 Threat Scan

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Current Threat Level: High Threat Level 6

Vital Signs of Democracy Scan Results – May 1-15, 2023


Summary:  The VSD master threat level rating increased one threat point to High Threat Level 6. This was the result of a number of challenging stories in multiple news categories that when added up raised the overall threat level. We look at the overall state of uncertainty in America when calculating our ratings. Based on our narrative analysis in this latest scan, there are numerous items that we believe will cause more uncertainty in voters. This is not a good thing for democracy. The more uncertain voters are, the more likely they will make an unexpected choice like they did in 2016.


Some of this concerning news includes:


  • The Texas Senate has given itself the authority to overturn their Secretary of States election certification authority by simply claiming fraud while offering no proof. There are rumblings of similar laws being considered in red states. If this had happened in the 2020 election, the outcome could have been very different.


  • A new report showed a rise in threats of violence towards abortion providers.


  • The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case that challenges the authority of the Federal government. This is a continuing trend. Conservative justices seem to be on a mission to reduce the oversite authority of federal agencies.


  • The Georgia legislature passed a law allowing it to remove state district attorneys if they don’t like the cases they are prosecuting. This directly challenges our system of checks and balances between state justice departments and state legislators. Considering the Georgia State prosecutor is currently considering bringing charges against Trump for 2020 election interference, this could be an important one to watch.


  • CNN is making it abundantly clear they are attempting to improve their sagging ratings by attracting Trump voters to their network. This was illustrated this past week by Trump being given 90 minutes in a town hall setting to repeat his lies about the 2020 election and approval of the January 6th insurrection while being cheered on by his supporters. We could now have two major cable networks that are trafficking in lies and disinformation.

  • President Biden and House Speaker McCarthy are continuing to oppose each other on raising the debt ceiling. There is concern that Biden may give into some of McCarthys demands that Congress roll back safety net provisions already passed by Congress for middle and low income Americans.


The overall state of democracy in America continues to be very fluid. While there is no one major challenge on the horizon, when you add up what MAGA Republicans are attempting in red states like we saw in this latest scan, it feels like a death of a thousand cuts. It also remains to be seen how effective Biden Democrats will be in countering the MAGA Republican agenda. The state of democracy in America will depend on what both parties end up doing.

Positive News

There was SOME positive news in this latest VSD scan…


  • Trump was found liable by a jury in New York of sexually abusing E. Jean Carrol and she was awarded 5 million dollars in damages. It is the first time that Trump has been convicted in a civil or criminal case.


  • Four Proud Boy leaders were convicted on sedition charges for their actions on January 6th. These convictions represent the justice department moving up the command chain that was responsible for the January 6th insurrection. It remains to be seen if they are going to charge Trump and his allies that planned the attempted coup.


  • Eight fake electors in Georgia were granted immunity in the investigation into Trump attempting to overturn the legitimate results of the 2020 election in Georgia. The fake electors were part of a systematic plan across multiple states to replace legitimate state electors with fake ones that favored Trump.


  • The Palestinians and Israelis agreed to a ceasefire in their latest fighting in the Gaza strip. For the moment, this lessened the danger of this kind of continuing combat potentially triggering a larger conflict.


The Hidden Story – White Christian Nationalism

This story has been bubbling in the background until it came boldly into the light at an event staged at Trumps National Doral country club.  A far-right religious group with ties to Donald Trump loyalists Roger Stone and retired Army Lt Gen Michael Flynn are planning Re-Awaken America events with pastors in swing-state churches in Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and elsewhere to spur more evangelical backing for the former US president’s 2024 campaign.


This effort is being openly labeled by its leaders as “White Christian Nationalism.” This fringe movement wants the United States to abandon its core tenet of the separation of church and state and declare their brand of Christianity the state religion of America. Although there has been significant pushback from other Christian leaders, the “normalization” of this racist, homophobic outlier belief system poses a growing threat to the legitimacy of the Christian church and the health of our democracy.


Other Narrative Threats

As you consider the summaries of the individual news narratives below be reminded that what we are looking for in calculating our threat meter rating is the level of uncertainty in the American populace.


IF citizens are not feeling secure, they are more likely to look to someone other than those in power to fix it for them. Whether voter unease is a result of their not knowing who to trust politically or who to believe in the many stories the news media are spinning, historically, democracies do not survive if their citizens stop trusting their democratic institutions.


Here are some of the other headlines from this narrative analysis scan for May 1-15, 2023. You can find the details and the significance of these stories concerning threats to our democracy at:


  • The political action group “No Labels” Took More Than $100,000 From Clarence Thomas benefactor Harlan Crow


  • Florida rejects some social studies textbooks and pushes publishers to change others


  • Supreme Court throws out convictions in sweeping New York corruption probe


  • President Biden presents his plan to help mitigate climate change


  • A MAGA Republican Super PAC raised $89 Million in small donations and made it disappear.


  • 2 Michigan school districts banned backpacks after confiscating 4th gun this year


  • Another Trump presidency could change the outcome of the Ukraine war.

Individual Narrative Analysis – April 15-30, 2023

Overall threat level is High Threat Level 5


Individual News Categories Threat Ratings

Voting, Elections and Legislators

High Threat Level 6


The threat level rating concerning Voting Rights, Elections and Legislators went UP one threat level to High Threat Level 6. The reason for this increase was the continuing efforts by red state legislators to usurp the authority of their Secretary of States to certify election results. They do not need to offer proof of election fraud, only say there was some.

Relevant Articles


Who is Winning the Culture War?

High Threat Level 5


The threat rating for the Winning the Culture War factor stayed the same at High Threat Level 5. This was primarily because the negative and positive news stories balanced each other out. 

Relevant Articles


A Woman’s Right to Choose

High Threat Level 5


The threat level rating for a Women's Right to Choose increased one threat level point to a High Threat Level 5The primary reason for this increase is the continuing rise in threats of violence against abortion providers.

Relevant Articles


The Effectiveness of Our Justice System

High Threat Level 6


The threat rating for the Effectiveness of Our Justice System increased one threat level to  High Threat Level 6. This is a result of the Supreme Court continuing to rule on cases that will decrease the oversight authority of Federal agencies.


Relevant Articles

The Independence of Our System of Checks and Balances

Very High Threat Level 7


The threat rating for the Independence of Our System of Checks and Balances increased two threat level points to Very High Threat Level 7This was primarily because the legislators in red states are giving themselves the authority to remove state prosecutors from cases they don't want prosecuted. This is direct violation of our system of checks and balances between state justice departments and state legislators.  


Relevant Articles


The Impact of Cable News, Social Media News Feeds and Technology on Democracy in America

Very High Threat Level 7


The threat rating for the Impact of Cable News and Social Media on Democracy in America increased three threat levels to Very High Threat Level 7. The primary reason for this was the CNN attempting to fix their sagging ratings by attracting Trump supporters. This new editorial policy was reflected in the CNN Town Hall that featured Trump and his supporters. During the 90 minutes that Trump held the stage he doubled down on his claims of 2020 election fraud and celebrated the insurrectionists of January 6th. If CNN continues this policy, we could end up with two major cable outlets spreading  lies and disinformation. 


Relevant Articles


Mitigating Climate Change

Moderate Threat Level 4


The threat level on Mitigating Climate Change decreased one threat level to Moderate Threat Level 4. This was a result of Biden announcing his plan for mitigating the impacts of climate change.


Relevant Articles


US Economy and Dark Money

High Threat Level 6


The threat level for the US Economy and Dark Money factor increased one threat level to High Threat Level 6.  This was primarily a result of Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Biden still arguing over raising the debt ceiling limit. McCarthy wants severe budget cuts in the safety net legislation already passed by congress. President Biden wants to separate raising the debt ceiling and any reductions in the federal budget. When Trump was president, MAGA Republicans raised the debt ceiling three times without any debate over the federal budget. 


Relevant Articles


Gun Reform

High Threat Level 5


​The threat level rating for Gun Reform decreased 1 threat point to a High Threat Level 5. This was a result of less mass shooting incidents involving assault weapons and school districts in Michigan banning students from bringing back pacts to school.


Relevant Articles

American Influence in World

High Threat Level 5


The threat level rating for American Influence in the World decreased one threat level to High Level Threat 5.  This is primarily because of the cease fire between the Palestinians and Israelis in the Gaza Strip and the EU and the United States mounting a joint effort to address China's aggressive moves in the Pacific region. 

Relevant Articles

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