Gene J. Puskar / AP

On Tuesday, October 16, President Donald Trump started tweeting.

“The United States has strongly informed the President of Honduras that if the large Caravan of people heading to the U.S. is not stopped and brought back to Honduras, no more money or aid will be given to Honduras, effective immediately!”

“We have today informed the countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador that if they allow their citizens, or others, to journey through their borders and up to the United States, with the intention of entering our country illegally, all payments made to them will STOP (END)!”

Vice President Mike Pence also tweeted:

“Spoke to President Hernandez of Honduras about the migrant caravan heading to the U.S. Delivered strong message from @POTUS: no more aid if caravan is not stopped. Told him U.S. will not tolerate this blatant disregard for our border & sovereignty.”

The apparent impetus for this outrage was a segment on Fox News that morning that detailed a migrant caravan thousands of miles away in Honduras. The caravan, which began sometime in mid-October, is made up of refugees fleeing violence in their home country. Over the next few weeks, Trump did his best to turn the caravan into a national emergency. Trump falsely told his supporters that there were “criminals and unknown Middle Easterners” in the caravan, a claim that had no basis in fact and that was meant to imply that terrorists were hiding in the caravan—one falsehood placed on another. Defense Secretary James Mattis ordered more troops to the border. A Fox News host took it upon herself to ask Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen whether there was “any scenario under which if people force their way across the border they could be shot at,” to which Nielsen responded, “We do not have any intention right now to shoot at people.”

Pence told Fox News on Friday, “What the president of Honduras told me is that the caravan was organized by leftist organizations, political activists within Honduras, and he said it was being funded by outside groups, and even from Venezuela … So the American people, I think, see through this—they understand this is not a spontaneous caravan of vulnerable people.”

The Department of Homeland Security’s Twitter account “confirmed” that within the caravan are people who are “gang members or have significant criminal histories,” without offering evidence of any such ties. Trump sought to blame the opposition party for the caravan’s existence. “Every time you see a Caravan, or people illegally coming, or attempting to come, into our Country illegally, think of and blame the Democrats for not giving us the votes to change our pathetic Immigration Laws!” Trump tweeted on October 22. “Remember the Midterms! So unfair to those who come in legally.”

In the right-wing fever swamps, where the president’s every word is worshipped, commenters began amplifying Trump’s exhortations with new details. Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida wondered whether George Soros—the wealthy Jewish philanthropist whom Trump and several members of the U.S. Senate blamed for the protests against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and who was recently targeted with a bomb—was behind the migrant caravan. NRATV, the propaganda organ of the National Rifle Association, linked two Republican obsessions, voter fraud and immigration. Chuck Holton told NRATV’s viewers that Soros was sending the caravan to the United States so the migrants could vote: “It’s telling that a bevy of left-wing groups are partnering with a Hungarian-born billionaire and the Venezuelan government to try to influence the 2018 midterms by sending Honduran migrants north in the thousands.” On CNN, the conservative commentator Matt Schlapp pointedly asked the anchor Alisyn Camerota, “Who’s paying for the caravan? Alisyn, who’s paying for the caravan?,” before later answering his own question: “Because of the liberal judges and other people that intercede, including George Soros, we have too much chaos at our southern border.” On Laura Ingraham’s Fox News show, one guest said, “These individuals are not immigrants—these are people that are invading our country,” as another guest asserted that they were seeking “the destruction of American society and culture.”

In the meantime, much of the mainstream press abetted Trump’s effort to make the midterm election a referendum on the caravan. Popular news podcasts devoted entire episodes to the caravan. It remained on the front pages of major media websites. It was an overwhelming topic of conversation on cable news, where Trumpists freely spread disinformation about the threat the migrants posed, while news anchors displayed exasperation over their false claims, only to invite them back on the next day’s newscast to do it all over again.

In reality, the caravan was thousands of miles and weeks away from the U.S. border, shrinking in size, and unlikely to reach the U.S. before the election. If the migrants reach the U.S., they have the right under U.S. law to apply for asylum at a port of entry. If their claims are not accepted, they will be turned away. There is no national emergency; there is no ominous threat. There is only a group of desperate people looking for a better life, who have a right to request asylum in the United States and have no right to stay if their claims are rejected. Trump is reportedly aware that his statements about the caravan are not true. An administration official simply, “It doesn’t matter if it’s 100 percent accurate … This is the play.” The “play” was to demonize vulnerable people with falsehoods in order to frighten Trump’s base to the polls.

Nevertheless, some took the claims of the president and his allies seriously. On Saturday morning, Shabbat, a gunman walked into the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and killed 11 people. The massacre capped off a week of terrorism, in which one man mailed bombs to nearly a dozen Trump critics and another killed two black people in a grocery store after failing to force his way into a black church.  

Before committing the Tree of Life massacre, the shooter, who blamed Jews for the caravan of “invaders” and who raged about it on social media, made it clear that he was furious at HIAS, founded as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, a Jewish group that helps resettle refugees in the United States. He shared posts on Gab, a social-media site popular with the alt-right, expressing alarm at the sight of “massive human caravans of young men from Honduras and El Salvador invading America thru our unsecured southern border.” And then he wrote, “HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.”

The people killed on Saturday were killed for trying to make the world a better place, as their faith exhorts them to do. The history of the Jewish people is one of displacement, statelessness, and persecution. What groups like HIAS do in helping refugees, they do with the knowledge that comes from a history of being the targets of demagogues who persecute minorities in pursuit of power.

Ordinarily, a politician cannot be held responsible for the actions of a deranged follower. But ordinarily, politicians don’t praise supporters who have mercilessly beaten a Latino man as “very passionate.” Ordinarily, they don’t offer to pay supporters’ legal bills if they assault protesters on the other side. They don’t praise acts of violence against the media. They don’t defend neo-Nazi rioters as “fine people.” They don’t justify sending bombs to their critics by blaming the media for airing criticism. Ordinarily, there is no historic surge in anti-Semitism, much of it targeted at Jewish critics, coinciding with a politician’s rise. And ordinarily, presidents do not blatantly exploit their authority in an effort to terrify white Americans into voting for their party. For the past few decades, most American politicians, Republican and Democrat alike, have been careful not to urge their supporters to take matters into their own hands. Trump did everything he could to fan the flames, and nothing to restrain those who might take him at his word.

Many of Trump’s defenders argue that his rhetoric is mere shtick—that his attacks, however cruel, aren’t taken 100 percent seriously by his supporters. But to make this argument is to concede that following Trump’s statements to their logical conclusion could lead to violence against his targets, and it is only because most do not take it that way that the political violence committed on Trump’s behalf is as limited as it currently is.

The Tree of Life shooter criticized Trump for not being racist or anti-Semitic enough. But with respect to the caravan, the shooter merely followed the logic of the president and his allies: He was willing to do whatever was necessary to prevent an “invasion” of Latinos planned by perfidious Jews, a treasonous attempt to seek “the destruction of American society and culture.”

The apparent spark for the worst anti-Semitic massacre in American history was a racist hoax inflamed by a U.S. president seeking to help his party win a midterm election. There is no political gesture, no public statement, and no alteration in rhetoric or behavior that will change this fact. The shooter might have found a different reason to act on a different day. But he chose to act on Saturday, and he apparently chose to act in response to a political fiction that the president himself chose to spread and that his followers chose to amplify.

As for those who aided the president in his propaganda campaign, who enabled him to prey on racist fears to fabricate a national emergency, who said to themselves, “This is the play”? Every single one of them bears some responsibility for what followed. Their condemnations of anti-Semitism are meaningless. Their thoughts and prayers are worthless. Their condolences are irrelevant. They can never undo what they have done, and what they have done will never be forgotten.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.

War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Democracy is disenfranchisement.
Photo: Salwan Georges/The Washington Post/Getty Images

In 2002, Mitch McConnell stood up on the Senate floor and delivered an impassioned oration on the moral necessity of disenfranchising former felons. He began his remarks with a four-word sentence that summarized the GOP’s attitude toward democracy more eloquently than the party’s enemies ever could: “Voting is a privilege.”

Seventeen years later, McConnell is still a stalwart champion of shrinking the electorate. But the Senate Majority Leader has grown less forthright with age. Now, instead of defending efforts to restrict the franchise on the grounds that voting is not a right (but rather, a perquisite, which elites like him can extend or withdraw as they see fit), McConnell has decided to go galaxy brain: On Wednesday, the Kentucky senator condemned the Democratic Party’s plan to make Election Day a federal holiday — on the grounds that this proposal constituted an anti-democratic scheme to rewrite election rules in one party’s favor.

“Just what America needs, another paid holiday and a bunch of government workers being paid to go out and work … [on Democratic] campaigns,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. “This is the Democrat plan to restore democracy? … A power grab.”

Making Election Day a holiday is just one piece of HR 1, the hefty package of pro-democracy, anti-corruption reforms that Nancy Pelosi’s caucus passed immediately after taking power. In a op-ed earlier this month, McConnell savaged that legislation’s other provisions — including restrictions on nonprofits’ political spending, and increases in public financing for elections to combat the power of big-dollar private donors — as the Democratic Party’s shameless attempts to protect its own political power.

Some have (understandably) characterized McConnell’s objections as open confessions of the GOP’s belief that it is a minority party: As Vox’s Tara Golshan writes, “He’s saying that making Election Day a federal holiday would result in unfavorable election outcomes for Republicans. More to the point, he’s saying that the more people vote, the worse it is for his party.”

But McConnell is actually making a slightly more sophisticated (though no more persuasive) argument: He’s saying that, while virtually all government workers get to stay home on federal holidays, a very large swath of private-sector workers do not — and since federal workers lean Democratic, Pelosi’s proposal would tilt elections in the left’s direction.

On first glance, this position might look halfway reasonable. But the fatal flaw with McConnell’s stance is that it tacitly affirms the Democrats’ core premise: That who does — and does not — have to work on Election Day unfairly influences electoral outcomes. (Notably, this premise is affirmed by many nonvoters themselves, 35 percent of whom claim they do not vote because their work and/or school commitments leave them with insufficient time to cast a ballot.)

If it is unfair to hold elections on federal holidays, when the disproportionately Democratic constituency of “pointy-headed bureaucrats” is more likely to have free time than the general public, then surely it is unfair to hold elections on any regular weekday, when the disproportionately Republican constituency of retirees will have much more free time than the median American.

Ostensibly, then, Democrats should be able to alleviate McConnell’s concerns by calling for Election Day to be held on a Sunday — or else, by mandating that private-sector employers give all their workers several hours off on the federal Election Day holiday. The Senate Majority Leader would have no reason to oppose to such an idea, unless his objections heretofore have been offered in bad faith.

And what cause has Mitch McConnell ever given us for doubting the sincerity of his putative concerns for procedural fairness, or his commitment to popular democracy?

TAPACHULA, Mexico – Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is sending 800 or more troops to the southern border. That comes after President Trump says he’s “bringing out the military” to address what he’s calling a national emergency at the border as the massive migrant caravan approaches.

Additional troops would provide logistical support to border patrol agents, including vehicles, tents and equipment. There are currently about 2,000 National Guard troops already at the border.

The migrant caravan headed here to the US is starting to weaken as some tired, hungry, and sick travelers are deciding to return home. But roughly 5,000 people are pressing on.

Some are asking questions about who is in the caravan, so CBN News asked our contributing correspondent Chuck Holton to check it out. He caught up with the caravan in the Mexican city of Tapachula.

“I want to try and clarify some of what you’ve been hearing in the news media about this caravan moving north into the United States. First of all, the people in this caravan are not being paid to join the caravan. Their payoff comes when they get to the US,” Holton said.

Holton spoke to numerous people in the caravan who said they joined the trek because they saw advertising for it on social media or heard about it on the news. He says the caravan has been organized by opposition political elements within Honduras who are supported by Venezuela, as well as a consortium of left-wing pro-immigration groups.

“They are however being facilitated and enabled by groups like the UN, by groups like other NGOs and by church groups who are feeding them and providing them support on their journey north,” he said.

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“Now the other questions have been: ‘Are there felons, are there bad guys in this group?’ And I can tell you it didn’t take me long to find four or five right away who are absolute felons who are coming north to try to get back into the United States,” Holton discovered.

A Honduran migrant named Freddy was one of several people who told us they’ve been deported from the US four times. “Sure I’ve visited,” he said. “Sometimes two months, sometimes a month. I was imprisoned there in the detention center.”

People are also asking about whether or not there are so-called “exotics” in the caravan – people who are not from Central America. Holton went into a restaurant where he quickly found a young man from Somalia, which is in eastern Africa.

The Somali migrant spoke to CBN News in English, saying he was heading to the US in a few days. “We want to take some rest, you know. We are tired, been on the road,” he said.

The Somali man revealed he began his journey north from Brazil. Holton also spoke with others from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Eritrea and Pakistan who are joining the caravan to the US.

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Meanwhile, some people are saying the trip is too difficult and are deciding to head home. “I found two people like that yesterday and actually helped them get back to the border of Guatemala,” Holton said.  

A Honduran migrant named Judy said, “It was really hard, there are lots of people in the group, some good, some bad. While we were all sleeping together someone took my phone. I decided to go back because of my daughter. Carrying her while we walked, I became so tired, and the sun and everything affected us both a lot.”

“My dream has always been to go to the United States because it’s so beautiful, to work and improve the lives of me and my family, and more than anything to give my daughter a better future,” Judy said.

“A lot more people would probably choose to go back home if it wasn’t being made easier to get to the United States by a lot of well-meaning groups who are helping these migrants,” Holton said. “And we can know one thing for sure and that’s that there will be a lot more caravans behind this one because everybody is ready to take advantage of the infrastructure being created by this caravan. And so we have to think hard about how we are going to help these people but also help ourselves.”

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Christmas decorating has always been a great challenge for me, and sometimes my family teases me about being “the grinch” and there’s always a story or two about how I’ve taken down the tree on Christmas Day, while there were still guests in the house. I love Christmas. But we have always had a very small home – going from 1000 square feet to 800, and in the dead of cold, long, dark winter in Alaska, with the kids trapped inside, it gets even smaller. I feel claustrophobic with just the toys not put away, or if there is a project going on on the dining room table.

So I always keep my Christmas decorating to a minimum, and only have it out for about a week. The other great challenge with Christmas decorating is we live 350 miles from a Target. There is some shopping about 100 miles away, but with a one year old having to ride four hours in a car seat, trips to “town” are rare, and so full of necessities like doctor appointments, business needs and grocery shopping that I rarely just get a chance to shop for things like clothing or home decor. This is the big reason why I do so much DIY.

This year, my Holiday mantle is true to who I am right now – simple and DIY.

In a small space, wall decorating is your best option.  A few fun holiday pillow covers bounce the Holiday spirit around the room, and is just the right amount of Christmas decorating for our small space.

It was the Joy sign that made everything come together for me this Holiday season.  It is of course DIY.

For tools I used my Ryobi AirStrike Crown Stapler with 1″ long staples.  A brad nailer or even screws or a hammer and nails would do the trick too.

Whenver you use nails or staples, make sure you use glue.

I had some leftover strips of 1/2″ plywood that were 8″ wide and about 40″ long.  I simply glued and stapled to some 1x2s on the back.  If you don’t have leftover plywood, anything from cedar fence pickets to new plywood ripped into strips 8″ wide to a full plank of plywood would do the trick.  At this point, I was just using scraps to create an economical canvas for me to work on.

The plywood was reclaimed from some other project, and had this gray tint to it.  A gray wash paint treatment or gray stain would give you a similar look on new plywood.

I used a 1×2 to create my J and Y letters, leaving a 1x2s width around the outside, and then the letters themselves are 1×2 width wide.  The I just painted inside the letters with white paint.  

Then I just added a nail and hung a wreath on the nail (wreath is from Home Depot). My little niece helped out and was quite proud of the finished project too.

I love it, and hope you do too!

Want more Holiday Mantel inspiration?

Jen Woodhouse hosted an amazing blogger mantel tour this year – check out all the mantels below!

I’m so proud and humbled to be a part of this blog tour this year.  Aren’t they all just beautiful and inspiring?

Well, like you, today is going to be a busy one, with last minute gifts to wrap and a family Christmas party, so I better get to it.  

PS – Don’t forget to pin this wood Joy sign for next year!

Photograph by Jim Watson / AFP / Getty

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Donald J. Trump warned on Wednesday that a caravan of Democratic women was heading toward Washington, D.C., with the explicit goal of invading the nation’s capital.

Speaking at a press conference at the White House, Trump acknowledged that he had failed in his bid to stop the caravan, which is on schedule to arrive in Washington on January 3, 2019.

“The Democrats are responsible for sending this caravan, and, frankly, it’s a disgrace,” he said. “They are sending some dangerous women.”

Elaborating on the threat posed by the caravan, Trump said, “Some of these women have fought in wars. They have fired guns. One of them is a mixed-martial-arts specialist. These are women who will kick your ass without hesitating.”

Trump denied that he was irresponsibly stoking fears about the caravan of females. “Every Republican in Washington should be scared shitless of these women,” he said. “I know I am.”

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