Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which a person or group sows seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or group, making them question their own memory, perception or judgement. Those conducting the gaslighting use denial, misdirection, contradiction and misinformation to delegitimize other’s beliefs. It is recognized in psychological analysis, especially in the definition of abusers. The term comes from a 1938 stage play called Gas Light which was turned into a 1940 movie and, most famously, a 1944 movie called Gaslight starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer where a man tries to convince his wife that she is going insane so that he can have her committed and he can retain her murdered aunt’s wealth. The term relates to his turning down their home’s gas lights while insisting that they are fully bright, among other things to make her feel detached from reality.
The United States is being gaslighted by most of the Republican Party, especially those in Congress. They are trying to gaslight us about the Big Lie of the 2020 election, about the attempted coup on 6 January 2021, and are using these lies to propel Republican controlled state legislatures into passing laws limiting voting opportunities and engaging in voter suppression.
For one example, listen to Republican Senator Ron Johnson (WI) question whether it was an “armed” insurrection which he did on a local radio station in Wisconsin. “That didn’t seem like an armed insurrection to me. When you hear the word ‘armed’ don’t you think of firearms? How many firearms were confiscated? How many shots were fired?” (Numerous firearms and explosives were known to law enforcement to have been at the capitol in the hands of the rioters, more were confiscated later, and detailed plans have been uncovered for the use of firearms by those storming the capitol.) Or perhaps this bit of misdirection by him on 7 February in a Fox News interview? “I have always believed the Russian hoax was a diversionary operation from the corruption occurring certainly within the FBI and potentially some of our intelligence agencies. You kind of have to ask the question, what is this impeachment all about? We know that 45 Republican senators believe its unconstitutional. Is this another diversionary operation? Is this meant to deflect away from potentially what the Speaker knew and when she knew it? I don’t know. But I’m suspicious.” (Senator Johnson is joined by the lead seditionists Senators Josh Hawley (MO) and Ted Cruz (TX) in trying to blame Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi for the attempted coup at the capitol.)
Since that was not enough, Senator Johnson went further during the Senate hearings on 23 February investigating the attack on the capitol. He claimed that the “great majority” of the rioters had a “jovial, friendly, earnest demeanor.” In his portrayal, the rioters were festive and the demonstration was “jovial.” The rightful focus of an investigation should be on those that perpetrated the violence. You know, the “plainclothes militants, agent provocateurs, fake Trump protesters, and disciplined uniformed column of attackers.” He later added, “Basically it was like a picnic here that day until they [meaning antifa] got involved.”
For the record, on Tuesday 2 March FBI Director Christopher Wray clearly stated in his testimony that the insurrectionists did not have any (any!) members that were “antifa,” or “anarchist violent extremists,” or any other left-wing participation. He did say that the primary instigators of the attack were white supremacists or members of right wing militias. Of the roughly 270 rioters arrested so far, 33 belonged to right wing militia groups, 82 were friends and associates of organized right wing groups and the rest did not belong to any organized group. Director Wray testified that this latter group was his biggest concern as they do not fit into any “chain-of-command” type organizations and are likely to be “lone wolfs” ready to conduct violent acts based on their having been influenced and radicalized by right wing extremism on the internet and through social media. The Director said that combatting domestic terrorism is currently the FBI’s number one priority and that they are investigating about 2,000 cases right now.
There is no “what aboutism” to this. There is no both sides. Those that try and and compare the Black Lives Matter (BLM) demonstrations to the attack on the Capitol are trying to change the subject. There is no comparison. The attack by right wing extremists on the Capitol was intended to overthrow the government and to undermine a free and fair election in order to hand the presidency to a wannabe autocrat. I will state unequivocally that any criminal behavior taking place during any protest, BLM or otherwise, should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. And it is. Actions by any BLM groups or others associated with the otherwise peaceful protests does not in any way justify what happened at the Capitol in January. And yet, Republican Senators are trying to say that it does.
At this week’s hearings Senator Cruz asserted that “in the past year we have seen massive rioting and violence as extremists, many of them leftists extremists, took to the streets across the country.” After clearly speaking about the BLM demonstrations, without using the name, he asked Director Wray what the FBI is doing “to counter this ongoing pattern of domestic terrorism.” Of course! According to Senator Cruz the real terrorists are not those attempting to over throw the government and kill the Vice President and Speaker of the House. It is those terrible black people and those that support them.
In spite of all the evidence, politicians, media personalities, activists, and others on the right are trying to rewrite history to turn the violent insurrection at the Capitol into “no big deal.” As chronicled in the Washington Post, it is a concerted effort to blame leftists and to absolve the ex-president (a.k.a the former guy) of any blame. In a tried and true tactic, many of them are actually blaming the Speaker for the attack. Representative Ken Buck (CO) said that Democrats are trying to create the impression that “there’s a bunch of people running around in the woods with Army fatigues on the weekends, and they’re going to take over this country, and that’s just nonsense.” Others criticize the fences and National Guard troops still at the Capitol as some kind of trick by Democrats to create the illusion of danger. They think it is part of a political effort to exaggerate the threat from right wing extremists dubbing the Capitol “Fort Pelosi.” Some even contend that the circumstances surrounding the death of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick are fishy and that it is being used by the Democrats to further their anti-Republican agenda.
Senator Cruz, of course, is one of the eight Republican Senators that joined 139 Republican Representatives to vote against certifying the results of the Electoral College, even after the Capitol had been sacked by supporters of the now ex-president. (You can find their names here.) This is the biggest gaslight of all. Most of those Republicans still refuse to recognize that Joseph R. Biden Jr. is the duly elected 46th President of the United States. Those 147 Republicans, and the Gaslighter-in-Chief continue to perpetuate the Big Lie that the 2020 election was rigged, stolen, or otherwise fixed to put Mr. Biden in the White House. This has real consequences. Mr. Cruz, Mr. Hawley, and everyone else that keeps pushing this devastating lie is actively and willfully undermining our democracy. They are using a circular argument. They have actively pushed this lie, directly leading to the insurrection in January. They then turn around, after having convinced their constituents that their votes did not count, even in the face of all factual evidence to the contrary, and say, “gosh” my constituents want to know what is going on, therefore I must act to fix the problem.
Those fixes involve voter suppression and disenfranchisement for millions of Americans. Republicans cannot win at the polls based on their ideas and policies, so they are working as hard as they can in state legislatures to pass laws that will keep many people from voting — most of whom usually vote for Democrats. Want an example? In Arizona they are considering a law that designates the state legislature as the final authority on deciding who the state’s Electoral College electors will be. No matter the vote count. No matter if the Governor and Secretary of State certify the results. No matter if the loser fails to win a single case in the courts. A simple majority of the legislature can substitute their own slate of electors at any time up to the day of the inauguration of the president. Indeed, why should we even let people vote?
Gaslighting has real consequences.
There is a distinct moral void taking hold in our country. Don’t like the consequences? Pretend that nothing happened. Don’t like the facts? Create your own alternative facts. Can’t win elections? Change the rules so that only your folks can vote. There is no shame. There is no taking responsibility for one’s own actions. Do you worship a man rather than fulfill your oath to the Constitution? No problem. Just vilify everyone that doesn’t worship at the feet of the golden don. (If you missed it, here is a picture of the Republican Party version of the Biblical golden calf at CPAC in Florida.)
The danger to our Republic remains. As long as the majority of Republicans at all levels of government keep the Big Lie alive, we are under threat. Call out the gaslighters when you seem them. Keep the facts out there. Advertise what the FBI Director testified to concerning the threat. Remind people that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) puts out warnings about domestic terrorism from right wing white extremists. We are in a cold Civil War. We need to work to keep it from going hot.
As we well know now, the Impeachment Trial for Donald J. Trump ended on Saturday with 57 votes to convict and 43 votes to acquit. Since 67 votes (a two-thirds majority) were required to convict him, Trump is not held accountable for his actions in fomenting an insurrection culminating in an attack on the Capitol building on 6 January, 2021. A shameful day for our country.
My schedule in these days of a pandemic was such that I could watch or at least listen to most of the proceedings. I am not an attorney, but I learned a lot about various interpretations of the Constitution and about legal concepts. Foremost in my education was understanding the term “but for.” In this case, it was clear that but for Trump, there would have been no Big Lie, no campaign to overturn a free and fair election, and no attack on the Capitol. Take Trump out of the equation — say he did not exist or more realistically, was not president or a candidate for president — and there is no attack. Period. It is unimaginable that any other presidential candidate would have provoked the same attempted coup that Trump undertook. Today, I am not so sure that it couldn’t happen again in the future. A smarter, more knowledgeable future losing candidate might be able to pull it off, especially if that candidate is aided and abetted by key election officials and members of the House and Senate.
Most disappointing during the week were the spineless votes cast on the single Article of Impeachment. Of the 43 Republicans that voted “not guilty” I would say that some — those in the Sedition Caucus — would have voted for Trump regardless of anything that he did. They voted to acquit not from fear, not from an appreciation of his policies, but rather for pure personal power reasons. Their sworn oaths of office are just words to them, not a solemn promise that protects our country. I would put six or seven of the Republican Senators in this category. The others mostly voted to acquit, in my opinion, out of fear. Some out of political fear that they might lose their job, some out of personal fear given the nature of the domestic terrorist threat that saturates Trump’s supporters, and some out of fear that their colleagues might criticize them. Some could possibly be found in all of those camps. What was galling was that immediately after the vote, many of the “not guilty” crowd came to the Senate floor to give speeches that point to the fact that they did think that Trump was the inciter-in-chief, but they let him off on a technicality. Pick your copout — as there were several — but the most common was that a former official could not be tried by the Senate. Once out of office, impeachment does not apply.
There are several things wrong with that approach. Foremost, of course, is that Trump was impeached while in office. When the House tried to convey the Article of Impeachment to the Senate, then Majority Leader Mitch McConnell adjourned the Senate so that the Article could not be delivered. It was out of session until the Inauguration. Remember that, because it will come up again. If it is possible for common sense to be a factor, it is logical that a president or other official subject to impeachment under the Constitution cannot commit a “high crime and misdemeanor” and then resign and get out of a conviction. Indeed, there are precedents in our own history where people were tried by the Senate after they left office.
As I understand it from my Constitutional Law 101 course watching the proceedings, the Founding Fathers left the rules and procedures for impeachment and subsequent trial rather vague. In this case, well over 100 Constitutional scholars of all political stripes opined that the Senate sets its own rules for the trial and that most certainly a president can be tried after he leaves office for offenses that took place while in office. Prior to the actual trial, this issue came up. In a bipartisan vote, the Senate voted 56-44 that it was Constitutional to hold the trial. That should have settled the matter and the presumption moving forward should be that the Constitutionality of the trial is not a factor when rendering a verdict. But then, in this day and age, and especially in Trump World, rules do not seem to matter.
The shamelessness of the 43 can best be epitomized by the speech that Senator McConnell gave immediately after the vote. He hung his “not guilty” vote on his claim that the trial was un-Constitutional. He did so by claiming that the House did not deliver the Article of Impeachment in a timely manner. (See above. Hypocrisy, you’ve found a home.) He did so even after the majority of his speech condemned Trump and his actions in great detail and said that “there is no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day.” Whaaat? It appears the Mr. McConnell may have wanted to vote to convict. He probably would have brought more Republican Senators along with him by voting to convict, possibly even reaching the 67 vote threshold. But he would not have been with the majority in his own party and thus would not be the Republican Leader. His decision to acquit was a pure personal power move. He likes being his party’s leader. There were only a few profiles in courage that day.
What are the takeaways from this episode? I have a few that I discerned from the proceedings.
- There are no impeachable offenses. Two precedents have been set with Trump. You can try and get a foreign power to intervene in our elections and not be held accountable. Was the Ukraine case too complicated, arcane, or insignificant for you? Okay, how about Obstruction of Congress? Obstruction of Justice? Trump dodged all of those. But attempting to overthrow the government of the United States? That’s not an impeachable offense? If a president attempting a coup is not worthy of a conviction on that charge, then I am hard pressed to think what would be worthy.
- It is okay to use violence to try and overturn an election. In fact, if you lose and don’t like it you can use any means necessary to over turn it. Bully election officials. Lie. Threaten state officials. Lie. Disenfranchise millions of Americans and nullify their votes. Lie. Ignore election laws. Lie. Send a mob to disrupt the certification of the Electoral College vote. If someone in your administration — say, the Vice President of the United States — doesn’t help you overturn the election then send white supremacists to track him down and hang him. (“Hang Mike Pence. Hang Mike Pence.” I hope all of those loyal Trumpists in the Sedition Caucus took notice of what loyalty gets you with Trump.) Violence is okay if you don’t win the vote and you can do anything you can think of to try and change it.
- The minority rules. The conservative political observer David Frum wrote a very interesting article in The Atlantic titled “The Founders Were Wrong About Democracy”. In it he argues that the Founding Fathers thought that by setting up the government so that head strong populist charlatans could not hoodwink the American public into wild and self-defeating actions, they would create a stable and enduring republic. They specifically did not want a true democracy because they did not trust the vast unwashed, uneducated, and ill-informed average American (all white men, by the way) to do the right thing. But what we have now is a minority (Republicans) that control nearly every aspect of government by their ability to block actions favored by the majority of the people.
- The Electoral College exacerbates the problem of minority rule and aids hooligans like Trump in their attempts to thwart the votes of the majority. Trump lost the popular vote by over 3 million ballots in 2016. He got about 46 percent of the vote. As the math shows, that it is less than Al Gore, John Kerry and Mitt Romney got when they lost. There were other even closer elections. Trump did not win in a “landslide.” In 2020 he lost by over 7 million popular votes. In the current era that is a landslide. It is too big of a number to overcome. So where did Trump focus his efforts? He focused on states to try and get them to change their Electoral College votes. Where did he focus his efforts in Congress? On the certification of the Electoral College vote. He was hoping to throw the election into the House of Representatives where, although the Democrats have the majority, the vote would be by state, and the Republicans control the most state delegations. One state one vote. Thus South Dakota gets the same vote as California. We can see that the Electoral College is vulnerable. It is an anachronistic vestige of another time.
It was a near miss. Trump came closer to pulling it off than I think most people realize. Despite the hand-wringing over Trump’s acquittal and the jubilation of the Seditionists and Trumpists (mostly all the same folks), Trump is an injured power broker. He is soon to be engulfed in significant legal challenges that are not ignorable now that he is an ex-president.
For the moment, I rejoice in having a competent president, addressing the nation’s crises. Best of all I don’t have to hear about Twitter attacks, Big Lie rallies, or see a failed showman suck up all the air whenever he shows his face. In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen the face of the twice impeached worse president ever in weeks. And I sleep a lot better at night as a result.
I hope we learn the lessons of these past weeks and months. The system is not perfect. It can be broken. We need to address the issues that were exposed and close the legal loopholes. Forgetting the past and moving forward will not work in this case. Our republic is too important to pretend that it doesn’t need fixing.
We are just over two weeks into the Biden Administration and good things are starting to happen. It isn’t all rainbows and unicorns, but we finally have a president and an administration that can competently address the health and financial crises at hand as a result of the pandemic. As the Covid-19 Relief Package moves through Congress, the administration is trying to work with the Republicans for a bipartisan bill. Unfortunately, some Republicans are using that as a weapon. The “party of no” cries foul if the bill or any other administration action is not exactly what they want. It seems that to many of them, it is only bipartisan if they approve it. The Democrats are smarter this time around. They are using Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (KY) own tactics against him. The Democrats will get a bill through and most Americans do not care about the process. They only care about results. Six months from now, when real Americans are doing better, all that they will remember is that the Democrats got it done.
Besides, why would the Biden administration want to broker a deal with a group of people whose majority still claim that Trump won the election and not President Joe Biden? The president and majority leaders should make it a condition of any talks that the purveyors of the Big Lie come out and formally and forcefully admit that President Biden won. By a lot.
Instead, many Republicans in Congress would rather divide the country by pushing conspiracy theories and fantastical lies about doctored voting machines and other foolishness. Regrettably, millions of people believe it. More on that in moment.
As a result, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) last week put out a Domestic Violence Extremists (DVE) Advisory. It is effective now and the advisory lasts until 30 April 2021. It says in part,
“Information suggests that some ideologically-motivated violent extremists with objections to the exercise of governmental authority and the presidential transition, as well as other perceived grievances fueled by false narratives, could continue to mobilize to incite or commit violence.”
It then goes on to say,
“Throughout 2020, Domestic Violent Extremists (DVEs) targeted individuals with opposing views engaged in First Amendment-protected, non-violent protest activity. DVEs motivated by a range of issues, including anger over COVID-19 restrictions, the 2020 election results, and police use of force have plotted and on occasion carried out attacks against government facilities.”
Doesn’t that match well with what Trump and many Republicans in Congress are saying? It also matches Q-Anon and other radical right wing extremists. The Advisory notes that these extremists are “emboldened” by the events at the Capitol on 6 January. And yet, the propagation of the Big Lie continues.
The new face of the Republican Party is Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor-Greene from Georgia. She should be a back bench freshman with no influence in the caucus. She should especially have no influence because of her nutty Q-Anon beliefs such as that the school shootings in Florida and Connecticut were fake, fires in California were caused by Jewish space lasers, and she condones threats of violence against prominent Democrats, to name a few of her public pronouncements. It is her First Amendment right to think and say whatever she wants about Jewish space lasers and the like, and such comments can be ignored as the rantings of a nut case. The threat of violence against a president, the Speaker of the House and others cannot be ignored or sloughed off as silly. They especially cannot be ignored when she is now in close contact with those same people. Yet, only weeks after other adherents of those crazy ideas attacked the Capitol, the Republicans would not discipline her.
Why are they afraid of her? Because she is a disciple of Trump. She is like a Trump Mini-me espousing many of the lies that Trump bombarded us with for four years. The Republican Party does not want to do anything to upset Trump’s, or Taylor-Greene’s supporters. Many are one and the same.
Representative Taylor-Greene is part of the enemy within, as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (CA) said the other day. Just as with the cliche in many horror movies, the threatening phone calls are coming from inside the house. She is not alone. Another Q-Anon sympathizer is freshman Congresswoman Lauren Boebert from Colorado who supports many of their conspiracies. Representatives Mo Brooks (ALA), Paul Gosar (AR) and Pete Sessions (TX) helped to organize the Trump rally on 6 January and spoke to the crowd. Representative Brooks told them to “start taking down names and kicking ass.”
The Big Lie continues to be a dominate issue in the United States. Those that believe the election was stolen — the right wingers and Q-Anons of the world — feel that they have no recourse or say about the changes taking place in society. If ballots are stolen, changed or stuffed, then the elections are rigged. If they are rigged, then they feel that they have no avenue for their causes except through violence. Thus, violence is likely to continue and we get advisories like those above from DHS.
I am baffled as to why elected Republicans still so staunchly support Trump. There are no excuses. Trump being Trump no longer works. They cannot justify supporting him because of tax cuts, or federal judges, or anything else they applauded him for doing. Yet, they are still all in. Trump will not be held accountable in the Senate next week. As a result, he will gain more power. They all know that he is guilty, but most Republican Senators will weasel out of convicting him by arguing that the “process” is un-Constitutional.
Senator Lindsey Graham (SC) gave away the real reason last week. Speaking of Trump and why most Republicans will vote against conviction, he said “We cannot take the House and Senate back without his help. That’s just a fact.” In other words, politics once again trumps holding an ex-president accountable for his actions that resulted in deaths at the Capitol. In fact, just the opposite is happening. All around the country Republican Party state and local committees are censuring any Republican that did not support Trump, either in the election or through the impeachment vote. Some of those censored includes people who were never in office, such as Mrs. Cindy McCain.
I thought that by now Trump would have crawled back to Florida to become an irrelevant player in today’s more hopeful society. I fear I am wrong. The Republicans had a chance following the attack on the Capitol to make a clean break with the man and his divisive, mean-spirited methods and policies. Instead, Lindsey Graham is talking about how much they need him. The spineless House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA) made a special trip to the castle-by-the-sea to go on bended knee before the king and kiss his shoes. They totally caved. Now they expect everyone to “move on” from an attempt to overthrow the government. Most Americans will not move on. We certainly will not forget that Trump and numerous Republicans in Congress sold the Big Lie so well, that it lead to an attempted coup.
This is a battle for our country’s soul. I am not sure we have a functioning two-party system anymore. Democrats have their flaws, but they are now the party working hard to restore and maintain the norms of our democracy. The other party — whatever we should call it — has a majority of members in Congress that just want to tear everything down, undo any election they do not win, and install an autocrat as president. Apparently, they are willing to use any means necessary to do that. Lies. Violence. Anything. Republicans have brought the Proud Boys, Q-Anon, Boogaloo Bois (Boys), white supremacists and conspiracy theorists into the mainstream. They are afraid to call them out because it will cost them votes. They are being held hostage by self-projected fear in some cases. In other cases, I think some in Congress see those groups as their allies.
We cannot talk about bipartisanship, progress, or unity until this is resolved. We do not negotiate with terrorists. Those people, in or out of office, must be held to account.
Only one week into the Administration of President Joseph R. Biden, there is a definite change in tone from the White House and around the country. The remarkable Inauguration Day, in spite of the pandemic and extremely tight security precautions, brought home the sense that indeed, a new day had dawned and hope is in the air. Unfortunately, there is some unfinished business that must be attended to in order to keep our country moving forward.
Donald J. Trump is impeached for a second time. The Senate trial is scheduled for the week of 8 February. It is imperative that after a due process, the Senators vote their conscience and carry out their Constitutional duty rather than play party politics. This is not a “both sides do it” issue. The impeachment is not “politics as usual.” Only one side tried to destroy our country. As I will review below, for the first time in our nation’s history a president, of these United States, actively sought to overthrow the government and install himself as the unelected leader of the country. So far, the Trump supporters have presented a circular argument. They continue to raise questions about the electoral process claiming that it was subject to widespread fraud and was rigged. Trump and his cultists in the House and Senate continued to repeat these claims loud and long. This is propaganda utilized to its fullest to convince his loyal followers that the allegations — and it never moved beyond unproven allegations — were true. The House and Senate cultists argue that since their constituents believe the election was rigged, then they must represent their constituents. Of course they think that there was fraud because their elected officials tell them that. And they do this with a straight face. Senators Ted Cruz (TX) and Josh Hawley (MO) are the leaders of this ridiculous argument for their own personal ambitious goals. They use allegations that they create to justify their claim that it should be investigated — even though roughly 90 court cases proved otherwise and all 50 states certified the election, including those run by Trump’s own party. Even Trump’s personal attorney, oops, I mean the Attorney General of the United States, said that there was no fraud and that the results were legitimate.
And yet, after the insurrection that caused five deaths at the Capitol, eight Trump cultists in the Senate and 139 in the House voted to overturn the election. Learn their names. They are guilty of sedition and are as culpable as anyone else for the death and destruction that resulted from their lies. Unfortunately, most will not be held accountable. Probably none of them will be held accountable. Some of them are proud of the havoc that they wrought.
Make no mistake what they are saying and doing. Those Trump followers, the majority of their party, are demonstrating their belief that any candidate but their own is not legitimate. Period. They believe that stopping Democrats by any means necessary is better than succumbing to their “socialist” ways. Democracy be damned. White Christian men are supposed to be in charge. One party believes in elections and the peaceful transfer of power and one believes that such quaint customs apply only when they win. As the newest Senator from Alabama, a member of the Sedition Caucus, and eminent scholar Tommy Tuberville put it “my dad fought 76 years ago in Europe to free Europe from socialism.” In his speech he later explained that his dad helped in “liberating Paris from socialism and communism” during World War Two, therefore Democrats must not gain power. Facts just do not matter to them.
The Senate trial is a place to start. Contrary to the revisionist stories starting to be spun, Trump had a long pattern of trying to overturn this free and fair election. It was not a spontaneous act. The lead up to the attack started well before the election. For months, Trump repeated at his rallies that the only way he could lose was if the election was “rigged.” He touted fraud at every turn. He made baseless claims about mail-in voting and bogus concerns about voting machines. These despicable lies were the only foundation to his campaign’s numerous lawsuits around the country. They were all based on allegations, not facts. Every case was shot down. To put a finer point on it, the maker of the voting machines, New Dominion Voting Systems, is going after those that spread the lies. They just filed a defamation lawsuit against Rudy Giuliani for over a billion dollars (yes, billion). Other lawsuits caused Fox News to retract their statements repeating the lies against Dominion and to confirm that there was no fraudulent use of the machines. Other news outlets such as Newsmax had to do the same.
In court, baseless allegations do not win cases. Facts do. If you lie in court, there are penalties. Apparently, the Trump cultists in the House and Senate have no fear of retribution in the courts. They may be surprised.
After losing every meaningful court case surrounding the election, Trump pressured election officials in Michigan. Then he pressured the Michigan legislature. When that did not work, he tried pressuring the Pennsylvania legislature. When that did not work he went after officials (Republican, but that did not matter to him) in Georgia and Arizona. When that did not work he made his now infamous phone call to the Republican Georgia Secretary of State and threatened him with criminal proceedings if he did not “find 11,780 votes” — one more than Mr. Biden’s margin.
But that was not enough. Upstanding state and local officials refused to cave to his demands. So he moved on. We now know that he plotted with an attorney in the Department of Justice (DOJ) to fire the Acting Attorney General, bypass the chain of command and install a person as the Acting Attorney General that was willing to bring the full power of the government to get the election overturned. When that plan was thwarted he wanted the Solicitor General to take a case directly to the Supreme Court to have millions of votes thrown out.
It seems a pattern is developing here. But, wait! There’s more! And it gets worse.
Trump started Tweeting in December urging people to come to Washington DC for a “wild” “Save America” rally on the day the Electoral College votes would be certified by Congress. Trump campaign money and former staffers were used to help organize it. In the days before and again at the rally, Trump pressured Vice President Mike Pence to defy the Constitution and overturn the election by decertifying the Electoral College votes. Before the rally, Mr. Pence told Trump that he could not and would not decertify the votes. As a result, Trump implied to the mob at the rally that Mr. Pence was a threat to his continued campaign to overturn the election. They understood what they were being told to do. Mr. Pence was now a target. Many groups that participated in the attack clearly pre-planned their actions based on Trump’s statements at rallies and over Twitter. The attack on the Capitol was definitely not a spur of the moment spontaneous attack.
Trump sent the mob to the Capitol to “fight” for his re-election. When they broke through police lines and violently entered the building he did nothing to stop it for hours after the riot started. Numerous reports indicate that he actually enjoyed it. His followers were “fighting” for him like no one else would do. Reliable reports indicate that Mr. Pence had to fill in as the Commander-In-Chief to get the National Guard moving into the fray because Trump would not do it. (This should also be troubling to all of us. Separately, an inquiry should be held on this point. If the Vice President was the de facto Commander-In-Chief, there was a very real breakdown in Constitutional law.)
Now the Trumpists are arguing that the Impeachment and trial is “divisive”. As if defying the will of the people at the ballot box, fomenting sedition, and sending insurrectionists to overthrow the government is not divisive. Spineless politicians such as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA) change their story daily. Originally he said that Trump “bears responsibility” for the attack. Now he says “I don’t believe he provoked it” and that “we all have some responsibility” for the attack. Perhaps he realized that if they convict Trump, then the whole cabal is admitting their own guilt in the plot.
So if the argument now is to “move along — nothing to see here folks” how many dead police officers or dead politicians would it take to convict him? Apparently one officer beaten to death by the “demonstrators” is not enough. Four other deaths is not enough. Would it be an impeachable offense if the mob got ahold of Mr. Pence and/or Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and harmed them? Would Leader McCarthy’s stance be different if he had been taken out of the House in zip tie handcuffs and put on trial on the Capitol steps? A near miss of a massive catastrophe does not absolve anyone of a crime.
More importantly, many experts on the dark side of our society where the white nationalists, Proud Boys, Boogaloo Bois (Boys), white supremacists and others operate say that for the attackers and their supporters, 6 January 2021 was their equivalent of 19 April 1775 at Lexington and Concord. They view the attack as the opening shots of the coming revolution. Some are ardent Trump supporters, some support Trump as a means to an end, but the goal is to overthrow the government. Just because they failed this time doesn’t mean that they have given up on doing so.
Without punishing every domestic terrorist that participated, without convicting Trump in the Senate, without holding politicians responsible for the Big Lie, we send the message that it is okay to do it. Without punishing those proven guilty to the fullest extent of the law, then 6 January was merely a dress rehearsal for what is to come. Whether or not we think that is true, the insurrectionists think it is. Whether or not you believe that Trump really expected to overthrow the government and have himself installed as the leader, the insurrectionists believed it. Whether or not you think Trump’s message was often racist, the racists thought he had their back.
Without accountability we cannot begin to heal and without healing there can be no unity.
I will be surprised if the Trump defense team actually tries to defend his actions. What will ensue in his “defense” is a Constitutional argument that an ex-president cannot be removed from office that he has already left. Therefore, they will argue, to try him, much less to convict him, is un-Constitutional. I am not an attorney and I am not a Constitutional scholar, but that line of argument makes no sense to me. If it carries the day, then no president can be held accountable for their actions. Even when, as in this case, it was the worst action ever taken by any president in our history. Trump systematically and with malice of forethought worked to destroy the Constitution and people died as a result. To that we just say “oh well?”
Trump supporters in the House and Senate remain afraid of Trump. Why this is so, totally escapes me. However, if in their hearts they wish he was gone, a conviction is the way to usher him onto the dust heap of history. Unfortunately, for most of them, cowardice trumps honor and truth. When the Senate Trumpists acquit him for a second time, it will make him relevant again. He would have no power if they did not give it to him. Apparently, for them, holding power is more sacred than their oath to support and defend the Constitution.
End it now, or suffer the ongoing violence and acrimony that our country can ill afford now, in the midst of a pandemic, or ever, if we really stand for what we say we do.
Little did we know when Donald J. Trump delivered his inaugural address four years ago that when he spoke of “American Carnage” he was setting an aspirational goal. He succeeded.
We have 400,000 dead Americans thanks to his incompetence and indifference to putting measures in place across the country that could have effectively stopped or certainly slowed the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. In days, we will pass the number of Americans killed in World War II. Before it is over, we have a shot at surpassing the 675,000 Americans lost in the 1918 flu pandemic. What a proud record.
Trump fomented racial division and supervised the rise of white nationalist and other supremacist groups throughout the country. Where these groups existed in the shadows in the past, they are now front and center in American politics and a threat to many of us who despise their values. We have Q-Anon believers as Members of Congress. We have governors as the focus of kidnap plots to try them for “treason” because Trump told them to take back their state from the “tyranny” of having to wear a mask and social distance. As he said after the “Unite the Right Rally” in Charlottesville in 2017 that resulted in fighting in the streets and the death of a counter-protester, “there were good people on both sides.” A clear signal to those groups that he supported them. He further encouraged them with his statement in the fall debates in front of a national audience when he said to the Proud Boys, “Stand down and stand by.”
The list can go on and on. I often wonder how one person and one administration can be so incompetent, uncaring, feckless and destructive. One has to work hard to cause as much mayhem as Trump has created. I cannot help but sometimes think that given his relationship with Vladimir Putin that perhaps Trump did work hard at causing so much trouble and nearly causing our country to collapse under the weight of his singular focus on working only for his own power and riches.
His crowning achievement for the title of the Worst President Ever came two weeks ago when he attempted to overthrow the government. As we learn more and more about the events surrounding the attack on the capitol on 6 January, we come to realize that it was a very close thing for the survival of our republic and our system of government. Organized groups were, it seems, ready to kidnap and probably kill Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Other Senators and Representatives barely escaped the mob’s wrath and probably would have been severely injured or killed if the mob had gotten to them. In my view, if the seditious mob had succeeded in destroying the legislative branch of our government, I have no doubt that Trump would have accepted the result and used it to keep himself in the presidency. As we now know, the mob missed their targets by less than a minute. It surely would have been a horrific blood bath as the Secret Service would have fought to protect the Vice President and the mob would have reacted with even greater fury. We were so lucky as a nation. As it was, the “peaceful demonstrators” beat a police officer to death and their actions resulted in four others dying at the capitol during the melee.
Their blood is on Trump’s hands as it is on the rest of the Sedition Coalition made up of a few “Republican” Senators and over two-thirds of the “Republican” Congressmen and Congresswomen that voted to overturn the most fair and free election in the history of our country. (But don’t take my word for that last statement. It was so judged by those in Trump’s Administration tasked with protecting the election, confirmed by the Attorney General, reinforced by states throughout the country led by both Republicans and Democrats, and upheld by over 60 court cases that were dismissed or laughed out of court for their frivolousness and remarkable lack of evidence.)
It is the lowlight of the Bizzaro world that we lived in over the last four years.
Now called “The Big Lie” by many, it was a concerted effort — months if not years in the making — for Trump and his soulless allies to make millions of Americans think that the election was rigged, or unfair or otherwise set up to deny Trump his “landslide” win. It really started in 2016 when Trump shouted from the rooftops that the election was rigged in Secretary Hillary Clinton’s favor. Even he was amazed when he won. None-the-less, he claimed that he lost the popular vote because of fraud. He created a commission to look into voter fraud and to find the fake votes. You may remember that the commission quietly stopped its work a few months after its creation because they were unable to find any evidence of any fraud that changed the outcome.
Throughout 2020, Trump claimed that the only way he could lose was if the election was rigged and massive fraud occurred. Rally after rally, speech after speech he spewed this same lie over and over. Millions of his followers believed him. His enablers and cohorts in Congress reiterated the same message. And now we are here.
Even as I write this piece, Trump has yet to admit that President-elect Joe Biden won the election. Trump goes home a loser in every way possible. Likewise, his accomplices in the Senate and House refuse to acknowledge that the 46th president was duly elected by the will of over 81 million Americans. Shameful. Somehow they stick to their blind loyalty to Trump out of fear of some political or personal retribution. They pledge their true faith and allegiance to a wannabe dictator rather than to the Constitution of the United States. They disgrace their oath and their personal honor. If Trump is such a political “kingmaker” then please explain how the Republicans, during his watch, lost the House, the Senate and the presidency. Some kingmaker. I hope they do as well into the future.
The consequences of their seditious actions and continued defiance will be felt long after the inauguration tomorrow. Those same seditious Representatives and Senators — and other elected Trumpists — claim that to try Trump after his impeachment would be “divisive.” They argue that it is now the duty of Democrats and President-to-be Biden to bring unity to the country — this as they continue to argue that the election was not valid. It would be laughable if it were not so dangerous. The pure unmitigated gall of these people! Do they think that all Americans are so gullible or short-sighted or fooled by their sleight of hand? Apparently. Or do they have further plans to rile up the Trump base to wreak further havoc on our republic?
At this moment, news reports indicate that some of these “patriot” lawmakers are seeking pardons from the president to absolve themselves of responsibility in the attacks. If this happens, they surely must be removed from the Senate. Such shining examples of leadership they are!
Try them all! Trump should be convicted in the Senate for his crimes against the state. The counts in the indictment could have been volumes long, but the House leadership wisely focused on his seditious actions in sending a mob to destroy the capitol. It cannot stand without punishment. I know there are numerous arguments pro and con about doing so — along with Constitutional concerns that have yet to be tested in court — but I cannot imagine that his actions over the months leading up to the insurrection should be allowed to go unpunished. Think of the precedent. A president can foment any illegal act that he or she desires near the end of their presidency and feel perfectly comfortable that they will get away with it. If no one is above the law in the United States of America then a president cannot pardon himself and he is liable for impeachment and conviction for actions in office even after they leave. The president wouldn’t even have to wait until the end of a term. Commit any impeachable offense and then resign with the knowledge that in this case, actions do not have consequences. It seems no different than retired military officers who are subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) for the rest of their lives.
I cannot believe that we can begin to heal until those that fomented the attacks on our fragile state are held accountable. The FBI and other agencies are tracking down and charging the domestic terrorists that stormed the capital. Those that encouraged them to take those actions should be equally accountable. Senators that voted against verifying the Electoral College results should be censored and removed if they don’t resign, but they most certainly will not. If criminal charges are appropriate under the law, they should be held to account. Likewise with the roughly 147 Representatives that voted not to verify the results. Remember, these votes came after the attack on the capitol.
Tomorrow is a new day. Thankfully. President Biden has a huge job ahead of him. It will not be easy to conquer the pandemic, restore the economy, re-establish our leadership role in international affairs and accomplish all the other tasks ahead needed to clean up the mess Trump leaves behind, all while those that he must work with continue to push the canard that he is an illegitimate president. It could take years to undo the damage. Only with the help of those on the right side of history can he succeed. I trust that like many former members of cults, once his followers no longer have to drink the Kool-Aid of divisiveness, grievance and lies that they will come to their senses and help to restore the America we thought we knew. Some will. Some will not. As an optimist, I hope that more will than will not.
It will not be an easy road. We have a long way to go. Bringing those that sought to intentionally destroy our country to justice will help us to make our way. They must all enjoy the full consequences of their actions to the fullest extent of the law. This includes an ex-president and his family.
On to a new chapter in our history!
Most of us watched yesterday’s events in the nation’s Capitol with horror, dismay, and sadness. It was a terrible day for democracy. First, Trump loyalists in Congress worked to overthrow an election that was won by President-elect Joe Biden with over seven million more votes than the incumbent. That in itself was appalling. Yet, at the same time, and in an effort to overthrow the election and prevent Congress from certifying the results, the President of the United States committed treason by inciting his followers to riot at the Capitol. Not since 1814 when the British burned Washington D.C. during the War of 1812 has our Capitol building been assaulted and ransacked. This was no exercise in First Amendment rights, it was a full-fledged mob intent on deliberately wreaking havoc. These were domestic terrorists.
What did Trump do while the attack was underway? He posted a video hours after it began rehashing his alleged grievances, perfunctorily asking the rioters to go home and then closing by saying “We love you.” In other words, Trump was happy that they did what they did. His sidekick Rudy Giuliani also riled up the crowd by telling them that they needed to undergo “a trial by combat” at the Capitol. Not content with that bit of rabble rousing, the president’s sons Don and Eric also told the crowd to “stop the steal” and declared that “This is Donald Trump’s Republican Party!”
I want to know why they have not been arrested, the whole lot of them. They sent the mob on its way to do harm. Four people lost their lives in the melee. Those responsible need to be held accountable. The terrorists inside the Capitol were clearly proud of what they were doing. Most of them took selfies and videos of themselves. Others clearly knew that security cameras were capturing their actions. The FBI and other law enforcement agencies must track these people down and hold them accountable to the fullest extent of the law.
Trump must go. There is no way that he can remain as president. Between his criminal phone call to Georgia election officials and his speech yesterday that incited violence he has broken enough laws to be impeached or otherwise removed. The House could vote today to impeach him. All they need to do is play the tape from Saturday and his speech from yesterday and they would have all of the evidence that they need.
For those that argue he “only” has thirteen days left in office, I would point out that yesterday morning he only had fourteen days in office and we now know what havoc he can create without shame or remorse. He is a desperate man willing to do anything to keep from having to face the reality that he will be just another citizen in less than two weeks. As with any other citizen, he will be subject to prosecution for past and present crimes. He has a lot to worry about. He must be removed before his next attack on our democracy.
Equally despicable are Trump loyalists in the House and Senate that continue to defraud Trump’s supporters by challenging the validity of the election. The whole bunch should be fired but the pure naked, raw power play perpetrated by Senators Josh Hawley (MO) and Ted Cruz (TX) deserves special scorn. Even after Congress reconvened following the attack, they continued to challenge the results of the election in Arizona and Pennsylvania. I hope that the good citizens of their states hold them accountable. I trust that the other Senators will shun them. They deserve all of the scorn that can be sent their way.
Today there are members of Trump’s cult in the Congress and in the media (I’m looking at you Fox News) that are spreading more lies by claiming that the rioters really were not Trumpists. They claim that the rioters were “radical leftists” dressed up as Trump supporters to make them look bad. These Trump enablers will stop at nothing to install Trump as a dictator, otherwise there is no explanation for the scurrilous statements that they make. They continue to try and destroy our democracy. Lies, lies, and more lies. It feeds their narrative and undermines truth and authority. If you don’t know what to believe you can believe any old thing that suits your own narrative. The lies start at the top. Trump is now at about 30,000 provable lies since he took office. According to the Washington Post, he told 500 lies on the day before the election alone. He is an effective liar as well. If he knows nothing else, he knows how to tap into people’s fears and grievances and stoke them until a mob is willing to do his bidding. Even if it means overthrowing the government.
This raises another question. Why was security so lax when Trump had been promising for weeks that his thugs were going to do bad things in D.C.? Before the insurrectionists arrived at the Capitol building Trump had already given his marching orders to wreak havoc. Why wasn’t there a response to reinforce the flimsy, business as usual, deployment of law enforcement officers? It seems fishy to me. The rioters got into the building way too easily. I am not by nature a conspiracy theorist looking for things that do not exist, but given all of the circumstances it just does not ring true to me that the only explanation is that the Capitol Police were overwhelmed by the crowd. In individual cases I am sure that is true. My concern and suspicion is focused on the larger picture of why security was so lax. Where were the units from the Department of Homeland Security? Where were the National Guard members activated for the days surrounding the counting of the Electoral votes? Where were the Department of Justice special units, especially those from the FBI? There was no federal presence to prevent an attack and their response to the attack came several hours after the assault began.
Take any Black Lives Matter demonstration from this summer, including in Washington D.C. and you will see hordes of uniformed people from the “alphabet soup” of federal agencies with law enforcement officers, many of them trained in handling riots and urban violence. For the BLM marches there were rows upon rows of National Guard personnel deployed on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, for example. Our Capital should be one of the most secure places in our country, and yet it was easily overrun by a mob intent on fomenting a coup. Could it have been because the rioters were mostly white “decent folk”? Anyone that wants to know why black lives matter rings true for most of our African-American neighbors, all one has to do is compare how the mostly peaceful demonstrations of the BLM movement were handled with how this mob was handled. Only fourteen arrests were made in the Capital. Watching the coverage on TV, I could see the police helping rioters up and down steps. There was just a more relaxed vibe and method for many of the police officers outside the building. It was different than the actions surrounding many BLM demonstrations. Which is to take nothing away from those officers inside the building that truly put themselves in harm’s way to protect the Members of Congress and the others that work there.
Here is my take away from yesterday’s events. Trump’s primary appeal, and certainly to those attempting the coup, is to those that believe white, Christian men should run the country. Period. All others are “outsiders” that may or may not be allowed to live in this country depending on whether they stay in line and acquiesce to those that “deserve” to be here. I was struck by the nonchalant attitude of those on camera. They were mostly at ease, relaxed and acting as though they owned the place. They showed no respect for the solemnity or symbolism of the halls, chambers and offices. Rather than “if you break it, you own it,” they seemed to have the attitude that because we own it we can break it. When you are supposed to be the rulers of the world, you can do pretty much anything that you want. It was that attitude that struck me the most. I am still shaking with anger and with sadness that one man and his lawless supporters can attack our democracy with impunity and without regard for the damage to our country that they are causing.
Trump has never been held accountable for any of his outrageous actions. He must be held accountable now. If the Vice President and the Cabinet fail to act under the 25th Amendment within the next 24 hours, then the House must immediately begin the impeachment process. I say this with a heavy heart as it will inevitably make a bad situation worse as his supporters will rally to his side and inflict violence across America. Unfortunately, Trump may cause that to happen anyway. Therefore, we cannot wait to take action. It is time for our national leaders in the government, the House and the Senate, regardless of party, to stand up for America rather than for themselves or a cult leader.
Our proud nation has taken a heavy blow. It will take action and time to recover. With the next president we will have a chance to heal and to restore sanity to our national discourse. The change cannot come fast enough for me.
At a time when we should be looking ahead to the good times coming in 2021, we find that there is significant danger in the coming weeks as Donald J. Trump continues to act like a mob boss and actively work to overturn the results of the election that he lost by over seven million votes. The very foundation of our democracy is under continuing attack as the president, members of the Senate and the House and scores of white nationalists, Q-Anon conspiracists and others attempt to overthrow the duly elected incoming president and vice-president. This is the most dangerous attack on our national values and core principles since at least 1860.
In the last twenty-four hours we experienced the spectacle of Mr. Trump calling the Secretary of State of Georgia to tell him to “find” enough votes to give the state’s electors to him. As reported in the Washington Post, and captured on audio given to the reporters, he wailed, threatened, whined and cajoled the Georgia officials for over an hour. The president wants them to “reexamine” the results, “with people that want to find answers, not people who don’t want to find answers.” In other words, fabricate new results. He repeatedly complained that “there’s no way I lost Georgia. There’s no way. We won by hundreds of thousands of votes.” In fact, he lost by 11,779. There were three recounts. The state legislature certified the vote. The Republican governor certified it.
Mr. Trump’s efforts could be criminal. They certainly are immoral and unethical. But then what do we expect from the worst president ever that will leave the White House as an impeached one-term president?
Meanwhile in the Congress, the Sedition Caucus of about 140 Trumpist Representatives and twelve Trumpist Senators will object to the certification of the Electoral College votes. As explained by Senator Josh Hawley (MO), he wants the allegations of fraud in Pennsylvania investigated. He says he owes it to the 74 million voters for Mr. Trump who “are not going to shut up” and must have their concerns addressed. Which, of course, ignores the 81 million people that voted for Mr. Biden that he wants to disenfranchise. Equally despicable is the effort led by the Chief Sedition Officer of the group Senator Ted Cruz (TX). He wanted to argue a case against certifying the election in the Supreme Court and is now organizing his fellow rebels without a cause to try and create a special commission to look into the “unprecedented allegations of election fraud, violations, and lax enforcement of election law and other voting irregularities.” He argues that the commission will “significantly enhance the legitimacy of whoever becomes our next president.” Nice. Note that their plan, as with all of their other “facts” are merely allegations. No one has produced any evidence of any activity that would change the results of the election. NONE. The Trump campaign lost over 60 cases in appearances before judges in multiple states including many judges that were appointed by Mr. Trump. Twice the Supreme Court turned them away. States conducted as many as three recounts with no findings of any significant issues. The person from the Department of Homeland Security, in charge of making sure our elections were secure, appointed by Mr. Trump, said that this was the most secure election in our history. Attorney General William Barr, appointed by Mr. Trump and who acted like his personal attorney, said that there was no fraud. There is no “whoever becomes our president” because only one person won the election and the other one is going to Florida.
What we really have, is a significant group of elected officials that apparently believe that if their candidate did not win, then we should disenfranchise millions of Americans and overturn the election. We have elected officials that put loyalty to the leader of a cult above the oath that they swore to the Constitution. That is the bottom line. Think about that. They are more loyal to one man than to our country. That man demands loyalty and they cave like a child’s cardboard box in a hurricane. Thank goodness there are still some patriots in the president’s party that recognize that we are a nation of laws and who will not go along with the coup.
I cannot emphasize enough how abominable their actions are. This is a full-on attempt to undermine our democracy. Period. Yes, they are making money off of this. Yes, they think that this will help them get re-elected. Yes, they are playing to the Trump base. It is still an attempt to overturn a free and fair election.
Additional danger comes from Mr. Trump’s detestable effort to stir up trouble in Washington D.C. He is calling for his supporters to come to a “wild protest” on 6 January, the same day that Congress is required to open the official Electoral College votes to certify the election. On Friday another member of the Sedition Caucus lost yet another attempt in court to overturn the election and called for “violence in the streets” to block Mr. Biden from becoming president. I trust that the FBI will be visiting Congressman Louie Gohmert (TX). Groups are calling for turning the national mall into “an armed camp.” The Proud Boys and other extreme white nationalist groups claim that they will have thousands of members on the streets. Some have threatened to keep members of Congress from getting to the capitol building to vote. It will be a dangerous time.
We have four years until the next presidential election. A serious bipartisan effort is needed to review every aspect of our system of voting from how we vote, to how we train poll workers, to reviewing whether a ranking system is a better way to elect our officials to doing away with the Electoral College or at least standardizing the way electors are chosen. We certainly need to close legal loopholes that allow state legislatures or the Congress to change the expressed will of the voters. It is a near miss this time. We cannot be sanguine that all will go well in the future.
I look forward to the vote on Wednesday, however many hours it may be delayed by objections or protesters or any other reason. Mr. Biden will be president on 20 January. History will record the names of those that sought to overthrow a duly elected president of the United States and install an avowed autocrat. To me, their actions are seditious if not treasonous. I will leave it to attorneys and constitutional scholars to sort that out. The bottom line is that they want to destroy our country by destroying our right to vote.
The best news for the coming year is that as of 21 January, we don’t have to give a damn about anything the orange menace has to say.
First, the good news. Vaccines to combat the pandemic are on the way. They are successful and people seem to be taking the shots. Let us all celebrate these holidays in our own way. Merry Christmas! Happy Chanukah! Enjoy Kwanza! Happy Festivus! And stay safe.
Unfortunately, the real world raises its ugly head in the form of a bin full of cartoon characters that are trying to destroy our country. In any other context it would be known as treason or sedition. Last night the worst president ever and impeached one-term president put out another of his rambling screeds about the election in a video once again shot at the White House at taxpayers’ expense. He also pardoned or commuted the sentences of 20 of his bedfellows including convicted war criminals that killed fourteen innocent Iraqi civilians and includes rotten politicians and businessmen that scammed the public for lots of money. You know, his kind of people. He also threatened to veto the stimulus relief and government funding bills (it isn’t clear that he understands that they were wrapped together and that there are different provisions in each).
Before I could post this piece, in a fit of pique because of some relatively minor provisions, Mr. Trump vetoed the massive defense spending bill. The bill originally passed with bicameral and bipartisan support sufficient to override his veto. However, the bill must pass before the new Congress forms on 3 January 2021 or they will have to start over.
All of that is more work than he has done in weeks if not months. He has given up on the pandemic entirely. Not one word from the president as we pass 320,000 Americans dead. His only nod in that direction in weeks was to warn journalists away from giving any credit for the vaccine or its distribution to the incoming administration.
So what to make of all that? Should we worry or just shake it off and hold our breath until President-elect Joe Biden takes office?
Let’s address them in reverse order. By declaring the Covid-19 relief package a “disgrace” he did a terrific political favor for the Democrats. They have been pushing for increased payments to suffering Americans since May. When Mr. Trump declared he would accept nothing less than $2,000 for each recipient, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi jumped right in and offered an amendment to the just passed bill to add that in. Since Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell really only allowed the bill to go to the floor to help his Senators in Georgia claim that they were looking out for the state’s citizens, he finds himself in a dilemma. He and many of his party did not want any kind of individual payments. The current $600 payment was a fig leaf meant to sound good but of little use to most Americans in financial distress. Now his party must decide for the first time in memory whether to support the president or vote against the increased payment and unmask the fact that his party really does not want to help the economy at all. They can look more hypocritical than usual, put it on record that they really don’t want to help the economy, bring down the wrath of Trump on their heads or use some legislative legerdemain to avoid the whole thing. Perhaps all of the above. To me, Mr. Trump has no real interest in any of these bills be they Covid relief or funding the military. He is angry and wants to upset the apple cart and make some kind of point to Congressional Republicans that they must be loyal to him and support his efforts to overturn the election, or he will make life very hard for them.
Mr. Trump continues to break all of the norms. Whenever we think that we have hit rock bottom, he shows us that there is no bottom. This is true of many of his actions, but it was demonstrated clearly with his latest round of pardons. The list of twenty includes three jailed Congressmen, Medicare scammers and others with connections to Mr. Trump or his influential friends. A few were convicted on drug charges that resulted in excessive sentences. Two pleaded guilty following the Mueller investigation and reflect Mr. Trump’s efforts to undo everything connected with that inquiry. The most troubling pardons were for the four military contractors working for the now defunct Blackwater security company who killed seventeen people in the Nusoor Square traffic circle in Baghdad. During their trial, they were convicted of killing fourteen of them including women and children and wounding many more. The first to open fire was sentenced to life in prison. This follows a pattern for letting convicted war criminals out of prison when they are politically connected or a Fox News personality takes an interest in the story. In this case, Pete Hegseth, a favorite of Mr. Trump on Fox News, advocated for them. Blackwater was founded by Erik Prince, another Trump advocate, and he is the brother of Betsy DeVos the current Secretary of Education.
As we see the way Mr. Trump’s mind works, and following reports that he plans to award a blanket pardon to himself and his family, one wonders how far this could go. Is it possible for a president to order the killing of a political rival and then pardon the killer and himself? This was something I would never ever have thought about in the past, but we now know that Mr. Trump will use any loophole or power at his disposal to benefit himself. The next Congress should take a hard look at this unfettered Constitutional power to see if it can be codified in a way that allows for some form of oversight for preventing its abuse.
We are now in Never Never Land with the outrageous lies surrounding the election results. Multiple news sources report that Mr. Trump is shutting out even his most fervent and loyal advisers and instead listening only to a bunch of crackpots that are pushing all kinds of theories as to how to over turn the election that Mr. Trump lost in a fair and open way. Perhaps the most despicable of all of these crackpot advisers is Michael Flynn, the former Army Lieutenant General and National Security Adviser who confessed twice to lying to the FBI about his dealings with Russia. He is advocating the imposition of martial law and having the Army re-run the election in the swing states that Mr. Trump lost. By all accounts Mr. Flynn (I cannot in good conscience call him “general” anymore) was an outstanding military officer and leader. He served in Afghanistan and Iraq. I am bewildered as to what happened to him but now he is a certified nut job. He should also remember that retired military officers (they are still being paid by the government as opposed to veterans who did not serve a full career) are subject to recall to active duty at any time and are thus still prosecutable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). He should look up Article 94 pertaining to mutiny and sedition.
Worse still are the 126 Members of Congress that sought to join a case before the Supreme Court in an attempt to over turn the election in four states that went for Mr. Biden. The Court threw out the case hours after the briefing was completed. (Interestingly in this Through the Looking Glass world, several of those petitioning the court were from the states that they wanted overturned. Does that mean, by their own argument, that they should not be seated when the new Congress forms in January?) None-the-less, they are persisting. There is now a plan to protest each of the Electoral College slates from six swing states when the results are to be certified by Congress on 6 January 2021. The House has enough members pledged to mount the challenge (it only takes one), but while several Senators have toyed with the idea, none have yet to come out and say that they will do it. The closest Senator to do so is the Senator-elect from Alabama. Tommy Tuberville, the former football coach, thinks it is a viable idea. Of course Mr. Tuberville also thinks the three branches of government are “you know, the House, the Senate, and the Executive.” (Maybe we should have our elected officials take the naturalized citizen civics test.) Again, they only need one and via Twitter (where else) Mr. Trump seems to think he will be the guy.
There are a number of scenarios that could play out once the slates are challenged. One includes Vice President Pence as President of the Senate substituting the “alternative” Electors put forward in several states in place of the official certified slates of Electors. As much as Mr. Pence does whatever his boss wants him to, with little to no thought as to how ethical it may be, it is a stretch for him to even consider doing such a thing and in the end, it would not work anyway. Mr. Biden will be certified has having won the election.
The point is that there are elected officials of the United States that are actively trying to over turn an election and install Donald J. Trump as dictator, Dear Leader, autocrat, whatever it is that they think he will be for them. This is a direct and threatening assault on our democracy. We need to hold these people accountable. Many news organizations have published the names of the House Members that supported over turning the election. We need to throw the bums out at the first opportunity. By the way, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy forfeited his right to ever be the Speaker of the House regardless of any turnover of the House to Republicans because of his active role in trying to overthrow the duly elected future 46th President of the United States.
In fact, I hope that the attempt to overrule the American people does go to a vote. I want it on record for all to see and for history to note, who those elected officials are that think that loyalty to one man is more important than upholding their oath to support and defend the Constitution.
More worrisome for me than these Congressional shameful shenanigans is that Mr. Trump is becoming increasingly desperate and unhinged. Serious consideration should be given to invoking the 25th Amendment. I am serious and this is a serious issue. Mr. Trump is not a well man. Surrounded by others that have seemingly lost their grip on reality, all kinds of bad things can happen. So far our democracy has survived this very severe stress test. We have identified weak areas and laws that need to be strengthened, but we came closer to losing our democracy than I think most people recognize. It was not a sure thing. Thank goodness we had state and local officials willing to stand up to the bully in the White House. We may not have those same good people in the future. Now is the time to strengthen our democracy against future wannabe despots.
In the meantime we have about four more weeks to go. Despite all the public hand wringing, I think that a year from now Mr. Trump will be fully in the rear view mirror and fading into history. I do not see him as a force in the future. Meantime, we need to get through this transition period. I am not sanguine about this period. Mr. Trump and his cultists can still cause a lot of mischief before he leaves. We need to keep our guard up and our focus on the future.
I for one am looking forward to the new year.
On 27 February 1933 the German Reichstag (parliament) building burned down. The cause of the fire is still not definitively known, but the Nazis are suspected of setting it. They then were able to exploit the situation by claiming that the Communists were behind it as the beginning of an uprising to overthrow the government. They convinced President Paul von Hindenburg to allow the Nazis under Chancellor Adolf Hitler to issue an emergency decree the following day. Popularly known as the Reichstag Fire Decree it allowed the suspension of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right to assemble, and allowed for the arrest of political opponents, the dissolving of political organizations, the ability to overrule state and local laws and the power to overthrow state and local governments, among other rights previously enjoyed in Germany. The following month the Reichstag passed the Enabling Act of 1933 effectively making Adolf Hitler a dictator.
Thankfully, we are not in such dire straits here in the United States. But we are inching ever closer to a total collapse of our democracy. As I mentioned in my last posting, the Texas Attorney General brought a suit to the Supreme Court asking the court to throw out the entirety of the ballots cast in Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia and Pennsylvania. Oddly, it seems that the only election problems in the country are in swing states that Mr. Trump lost. The desired effect would be that Donald J. Trump then becomes president for another term. (And I will say more than one if this gambit succeeds.) Legal experts far and wide declared such a lawsuit a total travesty and predicted that the Supreme Court will not take the case.
I hope that the experts are correct, but even if they are, very un-American developments indicate further trouble ahead.
In the past few days, seventeen other states joined the suit supporting the Texas claim. Six others are in the process of joining. As of this writing, 106 of the 196 “Republican” members of the House have signed on to officially support the suit in court. This includes the Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Trumpist – CA). Senator Ted Cruz (Trumpist – TX) volunteered to argue the case before the Court.
Think about that for a minute. Nearly half of the state Attorneys General in the United States are actively working to overturn a fair and free election and disenfranchise millions of our fellow citizens. Roughly 25% of all the members of the House and 55% of them in one of the two major parties think it wise, prudent, and legal to ignore their oath to the Constitution and instead pledge their allegiance to one man — a cult leader that wants to undo our democracy by claiming without evidence that the election was stolen from him. They explain away the lack of evidence, and the fact that “Rudy’s Travelling Circus” already lost more than 50 court cases trying to undo the election, by saying — and I wish I was kidding — that the fraud and deception was so masterful that they (whoever they are that perpetrated this heinous crime but the words “liberal socialists” comes up a lot) did not leave a single clue as to their nefarious deeds.
On Wednesday Mr. Trump himself dropped all pretense of what he was doing and moved on from claiming a fraudulent election to just plain saying that it needs to be overturned. He started the morning by Tweet saying simply “OVERTURN.”
It is just too scary. Anyone that wonders how otherwise educated populations can watch democracy get stolen and replaced by an autocrat need not wonder anymore.
So what happens when the Supreme Court throws out the suit? Your guess is as good as mine, but clearly no one in his party seems to be bothered by anything that Mr. Trump does no matter how harebrained, incredible, or illegal it may be. Mr. Trump only can take away one thing from this debacle. He can get away with anything and the majority of his party in leadership roles will support him or look the other way. He was more prophetic than we knew four years ago when Mr. Trump said that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and get away with it.
The essence of our democracy is that we fight hard for our principles and policies, but that when the election is over, we put away our differences long enough for a peaceful transition of power. We honor the results of elections. For the first time in our history since at least the election of 1860, that is not happening. There is now a stark division in our country. There are those that believe in the power of democracy (Democrats, many independents, and the remaining real Republicans) and those that believe that if the election does not turn out in your favor, you change the result through any means necessary (Trump cultists). This is how democracy ends.
I remain steadfast in my belief that Joseph Biden will be sworn in as president on 20 January 2021. However, I shudder at the damage that may be done to our country in the remaining six weeks before then. How can our government govern after January if a significant number of those in Congress refuse to recognize the legitimate transfer of power? How far will they take it? Will the Trumpists refuse to consent to Mr. Biden’s cabinet choices? Will they freeze all legislation to undermine the economy to make life as difficult as possible for the Biden Administration? The list could go on and on.
Our way of government ultimately rests on trust. Trust in our elections and their results are the foundation of our way of choosing officials and for them to govern. That trust is being deliberately threatened to suit the whims of one man. This is some bad stuff.
My reference to the Reichstag Fire is not me setting my hair on fire or yelling that the sky is falling. Not yet anyway. It does, however, have some frightening parallels to what is happening now and stands as a stark reminder that dictators and ruthless regimes don’t just show up out of nowhere. They grow from misconceptions, ruthless propaganda, and a population that goes along or chooses not to get involved.
Someone out there has a box of matches and is willing to use them. We must not let those that swore an oath to protect and defend our country give up our Constitutional rights in the name of one delusional wannabe dictator.
What is it with the former Republican Party? Even as I write, they continue their assault on the foundation of our republic. Likely, this will cause permanent long-term damage to our country. Tens of millions of people in the United States think, thanks to the rantings of Donald J. Trump and the continued efforts of national Republicans, that last month’s election was riddled with fraudulent practices and was rigged in favor of President-elect Joe Biden. To what end is this lie continuing even as the Electoral College is preparing to cast the majority of their votes for Mr. Biden on Monday 14 December?
Mr. Trump is nearly out of legal moves to dispute the election and is moving on to illegal attempts to change the outcome of the election. In every sense of the word, he is attempting a coup. Within the past week he twice telephoned the Pennsylvania Speaker of the House to pressure him into calling a special session of the legislature to replace the duly elected Electors with a slate pledged to Mr. Trump. This is the third state that he directly and personally meddled with trying to get them to change the results or overturn them outright. (The other two are Michigan and Georgia.) Last night a leading Trumpist Senator Lindsey Graham from South Carolina went on Fox News to berate the Republican Governor of Georgia to “not sit on your a**” and to call a special session of the legislature to challenge Mr. Biden’s victory in the state.
To date, state officials, Democrats and Republicans, are holding the line, upholding the law, and refusing to cave to Mr. Trump’s demands. However, pressure is mounting on Congressional Republicans to challenge the Electoral College results when they are certified on 6 January 2021. Two Republican Congressmen say that they will challenge the results. Under the 12th Amendment and the 1887 law known as the Electoral Count Act, the word “certifies” is not well defined. It takes only one Representative and one Senator to object to certifying a particular electoral slate. The objection must be in writing and signed by each. The House and Senate then decides separately on how to resolve the issue via a vote. (Normally they confer and often use a Joint Committee to resolve any issues.) The last time a slate was challenged was in 2005 when there was an objection to Ohio’s electoral slate. The issue was debated and quickly resolved.
More foolishness came today when the Republicans on the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies refused to vote in favor of saying that the inauguration was for Mr. Biden and his running mate Ms. Harris. They argued that the process was still playing out and yet to be officially resolved. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a law suit today with the U.S. Supreme Court against Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin claiming that those states “used the Covid-19 pandemic to justify ignoring federal and state election laws.” Over the weekend the Washington Post released the results of their survey of all 249 Republicans in the House and Senate asking if they accepted that Mr. Biden won the election. Only 27 said that they did. Two claimed that Mr. Trump won. The other 220 said that it was too early to say or refused to answer the question.
And on and on. What in the good name of democracy is going on? Why aren’t more people upset by this direct assault on our most fundamental right as American citizens? What inspires national Republicans to stay in this cult of personality and with unwavering loyalty bring down our democracy in the process?
I have heard a variety of explanations. They fear him, still, even as a loser. That he will run for president again in 2024 and they want to be on his good side. That if they don’t support him they will be “primaryed” by someone Mr. Trump supports. That they are letting him work through the various stages of grief until he realizes that he is a loser. There are lots of driveling excuses floating around. None of them make any sense any longer. Even if they did make sense once, c’mon man, it’s over! Let’s follow the norms and traditions that make this country great.
Reflecting on why we are in this situation it occurred to me that possibly, maybe probably, none of those answers trotted out by the pundits are accurate. There may be elements of truth in them, but that is not the main motivator of their abhorrent actions.
The real reason is that the true believers like what he is doing.
Some may be cynical in that they believe their own political self-preservation depends on Mr. Trump remaining in power. Others may have the same autocratic tendencies that Mr. Trump daily exhibits. Some may just believe that Democrats in government, all of them — every one — are so inherently evil that they have to do everything, and that means everything, in their power to stop them from taking over the government. Any end is better than that.
With that epiphany, it is not that the Republicans are afraid of Mr. Trump and have lost their spine. They are not. They want him to succeed. Think of that. One of the two major parties in our democracy would rather see an election overturned by unethical and un-American methods rather than give up power. Autocracy? They are down with that. For four years I have tried to figure out why they go along with absolutely every crazy thing this president does, even if it goes directly against everything they said they stood for in the past. The explanation was actually quite simple. They like it, they like the power they have, and they don’t want to give it up.
If they have learned anything from Mr. Trump, they have learned that if you have the power you can do anything. There really are no laws or Constitutional limits to what you can do if you are just nervy enough to do it. Who can stop the president? It turns out that if you just ignore subpoenas, hearings and inquiries nothing happens. Impeached? Who cares if you have a Senate that wants to keep you in power no matter what. Pack the Supreme Court? Sure. You need a little luck through resignations or deaths but if you are in charge you can set any rules that you want. Hand out pardons to your political cronies and dirty tricksters? No problem, no one can stop you. Staying in power is paramount. Once in power, you are in control. Of everything.
Here is where it gets scary.
The national Republican Party is selling the same bill of goods to their supporters that Mr. Trump is selling. There are millions of people in the country that are convinced that Mr. Trump will be sworn in as president on 20 January 2021. Convinced. As the Wisconsin conservative pundit Charlie Sykes said recently, the realization that Mr. Trump is no longer the president will be such a shock to their beliefs and world view that their actions will be totally unpredictable. We already had armed protesters over the weekend show up at the home of the Michigan Secretary of State in a pure move of intimidation. When the true believers realize that they have been lied to, they are not going to take it out on Mr. Trump. They will default to the Trumpian explanation that their votes were stolen, the election rigged and that democracy is dead. There are both short and long-term dangers in that explanation and the fact that millions of people will believe it.
Add to that sweet mixture the many white nationalist groups that have long had a goal to start another American Civil War. This could be their pretext to take to the streets. There is a clear and present danger from domestic enemies willing to foment violence. That would give openings for our foreign enemies to take advantage of the situation. It is a dangerous time. It is not a game that those Republicans supporting Mr. Trump’s lies are playing. They are playing with fire. I am very concerned that real people will be injured or killed as Mr. Trump continues to incite violence in barely disguised rhetoric as he continues to live in fantasyland.
Is such a scenario inevitable? I think not. The rule of law and the Constitution can still prevail. My concern is that Mr. Trump is becoming increasingly desperate and cares not a whit about democracy or the country’s well-being. Therefore, it is well past time for Senate and House Republican leaders to state the obvious. Make clear and unambiguous statements that the system worked, it was tested in the courts, the law was upheld, and the results of the election are undisputed. Unless they do that, Mr. Trump and millions of Americans will think that they were robbed.