With apologies to Colonel Nathan R. Jessup, USMC (Jack Nicholson) in the movie a Few Good Men (1992).
It was my expectation that in 2021 I would be able to move this blog beyond dealing with an ex-president and his feckless Republican Party enablers. Movies. Cultural events. Things that I thought were funny. And of course, big international and national news events. But, I was wrong. I cannot get past the continued shenanigans of the group formerly known as the Republican Party. They just won’t quit with the Big Lie and the attacks on our democracy.
This week the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives pushed hard to have the entire Republican caucus vote against a bill that would establish a 1/6 Commission to investigate the insurrection at the Capitol on that day. The bill passed in the House anyway, and included 35 Republicans that broke with their leadership. At least they might be able to handle the truth. Unfortunately, 175 House Republicans voted against it. The irony is that the commission rules were truly bipartisan. House Democratic Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (MS) reached total agreement with his Republican counterpart John Katko (NY) on the terms, make up, and powers of the commission. Originally, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (CA) had different ideas about how the commission should work and who should be the members. Representative Katko was deputized by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA) to negotiate and reach a settlement, but only if certain elements were included. Everything the Republicans wanted they got. The bill was exactly what the Republicans wanted. And then they ran away from it. After first signaling that he may be open to the commission, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday suddenly decided that he was now against it and is pushing his caucus to vote against it. Senate Republicans are now threatening a filibuster to keep the bill from coming to a vote.
Why are the Republicans now against something that they were for before they got everything that they wanted?
Because they got it. In my view, the Republican leadership never thought that Speaker Pelosi would acquiesce to their demands. When she did, they had a choice. Participate or try to stop it in its tracks. They chose the latter. On one level, it is because the ex-president told them to oppose it. It became some kind of litmus test — one more in a long line where unquestioning loyalty to the mob boss and part-time open mic host at Mar-a-Lago is more important than maintaining our democracy. That could be it. Unfortunately, I think that is too easy of an explanation. It may be true for some, but Senator McConnell, for example, has no interest in doing anything with the ex-president. I think it runs much deeper. First and foremost, Republican leaders are afraid of what the commission may uncover. To date, no investigation or inquiry has looked into the ex-president’s actions on that day when he was back in the White House. Additionally, it is entirely possible, that members of Congress had some knowledge of events to come or had some interaction with the insurrectionists before or during the attack. Mr. McCarthy himself is reported to have specific knowledge of the ex-president’s actions, opinions, and demeanor that may indicate that he was perfectly fine with an attempted coup. Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY), the now banished member of the caucus, has said publicly that Mr. McCarthy “clearly has facts about that day that an investigation into what happened, into the president’s actions, ought to get to the bottom of.” She also intimated in a televised conversation with Fox News’ Chris Wallace that the ex-president and Mr. McCarthy tried “to get their story straight” after the events of 6 January.
That is some serious stuff.
I will note that the U.S. Capitol Police sent a letter to Congress deploring the insurrection deniers words and actions and calling for a full and independent commission to look into the insurrection. The Republicans are ignoring it. Yep, the great supporters of our police rank and file don’t want to know about it when it comes to taking an actual stand on an issue. By the way, after voting to stop the commission, every Republican in the House (and three Democrats) voted to defund the police on Thursday. Specifically, they voted against a supplemental spending bill to address deficiencies found following the 6 January insurrection that also would reimburse the National Guard and D.C. Metro Police for expenses incurred in protecting the Capitol, and provide the Capitol police with overtime pay, retention bonuses, and trauma resources.
As I try to make sense of all this, I am really doing some hard thinking about where this is all headed. I have given up on the bulk of national Republicans who seem to think that their only path to power is by destroying our democracy. I really have come to that conclusion. Sadly, but with my eyes wide open. On one level, Congressional Republicans are clearly willing to throw our democracy under the bus in order to regain power. They do not want anything in the public eye that reminds us all of how close we came to a coup back in January, and that 147 of them voted to overturn the results of the Electoral College. All of them suddenly have amnesia about those facts as they desperately try to gaslight us into thinking nothing happened. (Representative Andrew Clyde (R-GA) actually said in a Committee meeting that the videos show that those in the Capitol that day were acting like “it was a normal tourist visit.” Other videos shows Mr. Clyde helping to barricade the entrance to the House Chamber with furniture as insurrectionists tried to break down the door. Shameful.) They are afraid to get to the truth because they know that it could cost them the 2022 election victories that they expect. Shoot, Mr. McCarthy is all but measuring the drapes in the Office of the Speaker of the House. If the truth comes out, that may be all in peril. So far, 493 people have been charged in the Capitol insurrection. Many Republicans continue to call them “patriots” and some even argue that they are being “abused” by law enforcement. Some continue to claim that it was “antifa” that attacked the Capitol. Ridiculous. But if they think that, would not an investigative commission uncover that? Would that not be a good thing for their argument that the ex-president was not responsible? Then why stop the investigation?
But I am afraid that the danger to our democracy is much deeper. The Republicans are systematically setting up the means and the opportunity to overturn the elections in 2022 and 2024 if the results are not in their favor.
Among the tools they are using are changes to election laws in many states, gerrymandering election districts following the 2020 census, pushing for new inquiries into the 2020 election claiming that the results were rigged, and threatening violence.
Making it harder to vote, as is happening in Florida, Georgia, Arizona and elsewhere, is aimed at deterring minorities, young people, and the poor from voting, all groups that tend to vote for Democrats. These can be overcome by concerted and persistent get-out-the-vote efforts and certainly those provisions could also inhibit some Republican voters, especially older Americans. What is harder to overcome is the changes to the laws that give legislatures the final word on verifying the election results and certifying the winners. These changes have been enacted in states with large Republican majorities in their legislature. Republicans on state and local levels did their jobs in 2020 and stood up to immense pressure to decertify the results. They were honorable in the execution of their duties and faithful to the Constitution. They have been replaced or bypassed all the way to the county level in many contested states. This opens a huge door for unscrupulous manipulation of the election.
When election results in the states are disputed, the issues are resolved in the Congress. When all else fails the House of Representatives, voting by states, not members, decides. Republicans control more state delegations in the House even though they are in the minority — both in terms of pure numbers but also in the number of American citizens each represents. (By law, there are no more than 435 Representatives in the House, apportioned by state. Thus, a Congressman from a populous state has many more constituents than one from a rural, less populated state, making for a real imbalance in a “representational” democracy.) The Republicans already demonstrated their willingness to overturn an election as they tried to do in 2020. Who in their right minds doesn’t think that they would do it if they controlled Congress?
My biggest concern is that we are headed to a Civil War. Right now we are in a Cold Civil War but it could turn ugly in a flash. I hesitate to say that as the consequences are immense and it is not a statement that I make lightly. In my mind it is not hyperbole or hyperventilating.
On 11 December 2020 I wrote about my concern that we would have a “Reichstag” moment where our democracy would be directly attacked. And then on 6 January 2021 it happened. That could be just the beginning. The ex-president has no qualms, indeed may actually take pleasure, in firing up his followers to act in violent ways. 6 January is only one instance. As Representative Cheney said in a Washington Post op-ed that if the ex-president never concedes and continues to claim that he is the “rightful president” — as he did this week and has done consistently since he lost bigly in a fair and free election — he will continue to inspire violence. As Ms. Cheney said, the ex-president “repeats these words now with full knowledge that exactly this type of language provoked violence on Jan. 6.” She goes on to say that there is every expectation “to believe that Trump’s language can provoke violence again.”
There may or may not be another attack on our nation’s Capitol. But what about the attacks on state Capitols? What about the death threats to election officials and their families, be they Democrats or Republicans?
It seems to me that the Republicans maxed out in 2020. They have done nothing to expand their base or to put forward policies that may help people and make them want to vote for their candidates. Indeed, they have done the opposite. Consequently, to win elections, they must keep people who will not vote for them from voting. Making it harder is one way but the most effective way is to intimidate them, make the voters afraid to cast a ballot. Go after election officials and poll volunteers with threats to them and their families. It goes on and on.
The ex-president may soon be irrelevant when he is indicted by a grand jury. He may even go to jail. This will either further inflame the violence or make him obsolete. We’ll see. Unfortunately, Trumpism will live on. Too many people see it as a path to power.
I have also thought long and hard about why the Republicans are so determined to retain power at any cost, including evading the Constitution and winking at violence if it achieves their goals. Why gain power when over the last twenty years they have done mostly nothing, other than cut taxes. They are bereft of any ideas for leading our country.
I have only two answers — so far. One, there are some who truly believe that any Democrat is really trying to lead our country to ruin and to turn it into a communist/socialist/fascist country (pick one — many think all three). Others see our country changing and cannot abide it. They have some notion that our history is totally a result of northern Europeans and their intrepid customs, traditions, ambition, and general intelligence — something no minority or immigrant or any of the “others” have. The “others” would only destroy our country. Thus, their conclusion. Any means necessary is required to save our nation’s soul. Without them in charge — mostly white, Christian, men — our way of life will be lost. They will not allow that to happen and therefore they are willing to fight to the death — figuratively but in some cases literally — to save it. It is the outlook and values of white supremacists, who are now valued members of the Republican coalition.
Republicans see themselves at war. They will do anything to achieve their goals. Democrats keep trying to play by the rules and work for bipartisanship. Foolish. The filibuster must go. If there is no 1/6 Commission (Congressional committees can still investigate, but because they are chaired by Democrats, “politics” “partisanship” and other denunciations will follow any findings) we cannot get to the fundamental truths of the attack on democracy. If the Congress does not pass the voter protection acts, then the game is lost. No other issue will matter because the foundation of our democracy will be lost.
Truth cannot be a relative thing.
As you may know, next week the Republicans in the House of Representatives plan to vote Congresswoman Elizabeth Lynne “Liz” Cheney (WY) out of her leadership position as the chair of the House Republican Conference, the number three position in their leadership. They will do so not because of immoral, illegal, or unethical behavior. It will not be done because she is a radical espousing policies and ideas that are antithetical to her party. She voted in support of the former guy’s policies 91% of the time according to the conservative group Heritage Action. They will not remove her for any logical reason. They will unseat her for one reason and one reason only. She will not lie. She will not lie about a disgraced ex-president winning the election. She will not lie about the election being rigged. She will not lie about the insurrection that attempted to overthrow our election actually being a bunch of friendly citizens visiting the Capitol on 6 January. She will not lie and say that the Black Lives Matter demonstrations last summer were the same as the white supremacist, militia led attack on the Capitol that intended to bring down the government.
There is little to nothing about Representative Cheney’s views and policies with which I agree. However, she should be a lesson to us all in putting country, honor and the Constitution above personal gain.
In one sense why should the average American care about the “inside baseball” workings of the Republican Party in Washington DC? Most people would understandably say that they could care less. However, in the context of one of my favorite sayings, that there is a difference between what things are and what things mean, it has real significance. What this is, is a power squabble within the ranks of one political party. What it means is that the Republican Party no longer cares about the truth, facts or rationality. It means that to be a member in good standing in the Republican Party one must embrace a lie and repudiate the Constitution. It means that they are willing to subvert democracy in order to make money and to attain power. By any means necessary.
The ouster of Representative Cheney is more than a gesture to appease the ex-president. Countless Republican politicians have and continue to pay homage to the open mic host at Mar-a-Lago. What this impending action signifies is the total repudiation of democracy. When this action is coupled with numerous Republican controlled legislatures working overtime to make it harder to vote, combined with activities like the ongoing circus in Arizona where they sublet the attempt to manufacture fraud where none exists, it becomes more and more evident that Republicans are willing to do anything to overturn an election when they don’t like the results.
This is a direct assault on democracy. Most troubling is that many of the voting laws enacted or under consideration in several state legislatures give the power to monitor, certify, and declare the winner of elections to themselves. They removed the practical power or provided the means to override the state offices responsible for free and fair elections — positions held mostly by Republicans in key states in 2020 — that did not go along with the Big Lie. In addition, should the Republicans have control of the House following the elections in 2024, they will have the means to accomplish what they tried to do this past election — overturn the will of the people and install their preferred candidate as president. It was close in 2021 — 147 Republicans voted to overturn the election, even after the assault on the Capitol — they know how to do it. As I explained in previous posts, the final arbiter of a contested election, even if the Senate does not agree, is the House of Representatives. So long USA.
Democracy most often does not fail via a violent revolution. It can slip away quietly as a result of small, but continuous changes over time until one day it is a democracy in name only. Polls show that 30% of Americans favor a “strong man as leader” and they don’t mean a weight lifter.
The Big Lie encourages domestic terrorism. Despite the revisionist history Republicans are now trying to peddle, people died at the Capitol on 6 January and hundreds were injured, some permanently. The Republicans are now trying to change that narrative, including saying that Donald J. Trump tried to tell the “boisterous” crowd that afternoon to go home peacefully. Maybe. It seemed too little too late for me, and even a bit tongue in cheek. That day he also called the rioters trying to kill the Vice President and Speaker of the House and others “patriots.” He went on to say “We love you. You’re very special.” Don’t forget that he basically told the country and our elected officials that they deserved what they got. More specifically he tweeted “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from the great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long.” He later added, “Remember this day forever!”
He has never condemned the attack. He never conceded the election. For the first time in our American history, there was no smooth and peaceful transition of power from one president to the next. I worry that the domestic terrorists that ransacked the Capitol, tried to kidnap a state governor, invaded numerous state capitols and undertook other acts of violence in the past year will do even more traitorous deeds if they continue to be aided and abetted by a major political party. Apparently, as long as they get their money and their votes, most Republican politicians are okay with white supremacy as a major force in their ranks.
This is what Representative Cheney is supposed to support in order to remain a member in good standing of one of the two parties in our democracy.
All of us can have different ideas about how to solve our nation’s problems with immigration, infrastructure, the economy or a host of other issues. There can be legitimate differences of opinion on policy. One party is trying to solve these problems, the other is laser focused on “owning the libs” and sabotaging our democracy by supporting a wannabe autocrat at all costs. To be honest, I am not sure why they want power because they don’t do anything when they have it. They have become the Do Nothing Party with one objective — block anything that President Biden proposes. (Just this week Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “One hundred percent of my focus is standing up to this administration.” He went on to say that the Republicans are in “total unity” “in opposition” to the Biden Administration. Bi-partisan, eh?) I will be curious to see if they continue the blind support of Trumpism after Mr. Trump is indicted by a grand jury.
These developments are a clear and present danger to our Republic. It is up to all of us to see what it is happening and to call it out for what it is.
Watching the politicians of the Republican Party struggling to outdo each other in their devotion to Trumpism reminds me of the last years of the Know Nothing Party in the 1850’s. Their official name was the American Party, but as it was originally a secret society, adherents would claim that they “knew nothing” when asked about the elements of their beliefs. In fact, they were an anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic, populist movement that put “Americans First” (meaning the descendants of the original colonists) and were known for their violent activity against their opponents. By the late 1850’s, they ceased to be a political force.
Last month, a number of Republicans in the House of Representatives started to form the “America First Caucus.” Its aim was to promote “Congressional policies that are of the long-term benefit of the American nation.” Due to its offensive nature, once their platform became public, Republicans could not distance themselves fast enough, including those that called themselves the founders of the caucus. Unfortunately, the document still exists and to me, it espouses what most Republican politicians today believe. It is worth taking a look at their key points.
The America First Policy Platform contains fourteen basic issues. (Read it for yourself here.) I will summarize them briefly in order to bring home their core beliefs.
- Election Fraud. The 2020 election was a failure and we have lost electoral integrity. Voting machines were compromised and illegally accessed. Mail-in voting is fraudulent. They will work to implement new nationwide procedures to eliminate the “mass voter fraud” perpetrated in 2020.
- Sovereignty. Washington D.C. bureaucrats and the “elites that control them” have formed a new oligarchy. They aim to eliminate “deep state actors,” regulations, and most bureaucracies.
- Big Tech. Silicon Valley corporations have weaponized data against conservatives and allowed terrorists and pedophiles to organize on their sites. This is a direct attack on our First Amendment freedoms.
- Immigration. The U.S. must show it is a product of our “uniquely Anglo-Saxon” traditions. Certain immigrants threaten “the existential future of America as a unique country with a unique culture.” Birthright citizenship [what we call the 14th Amendment in the Constitution] must be abolished.
- Infrastructure. Our infrastructure needs work, therefore we should not send money overseas for other countries to improve their infrastructure. Our domestic infrastructure should reflect the values that “befits the progeny of European” roots.
- Foreign Aid. Whether for humanitarian or military purposes, sending money outside the U.S. is “unwise” and of little benefit. The U.S. citizenry can contribute to charity in order to help people outside of our country rather than have “corrupt bureaucrats play around with it.”
- National Security. The U.S. can no longer afford to be the “world’s policeman.” Our allies refuse to pull their weight and our overseas wars only serve to enrich defense contractors.
- Coronavirus. Health mandates to stop the spread of the virus are “socially conditioning the culture and behavior of Americans.” All restrictions must be lifted and the caucus will work to ensure that the government does not “over react” to future pandemics.
- Trade. Free trade accomplishes the same “nefarious economic goals” that immigration does. There should be a new approach to trade that puts Americans first and that may require the imposition of tariffs and restrictions to stop others from taking advantage of us.
- Environment. The Paris Climate Accord cripples our manufacturers. The Green New Deal is a “wasteful social justice program.” Balance recreational opportunities with necessary manufacturing to preserve our way of life.
- Energy. We must preserve our environment but not use that as an excuse to destroy the energy industry.
- Protecting the Value of American Savings. American currency is under attack by “Keynesian economists” and globalist institutions. Cryptocurrencies and other things such as gold and silver should be the key to wealth.
- America First Education. Our education system has declined and works to “undermine pride in America’s great history.” It is now focused on “progressive indoctrination and enrichment of an out-of-control elite oligarchy.”
- The Chinese Communist Party. China presents a threat to our civilization like no other since the demise of the USSR. The U.S. must be prepared to compete economically and militarily.
Why did I take so much of your time outlining the rantings of a fringe group in Congress? Because they are not a fringe group. The Caucus Platform could be the current platform for the Republican Party. Indeed, they should adopt it because in the 2020 election, they literally had no platform. At all. (“Resolved, That the 2020 Republican National Convention will adjourn without adopting a new platform until the 2024 Republican National Convention.”)
The problem is that the America First Caucus said the quiet part out loud. They put down on paper what many Republicans now consider to be their core beliefs, but it is too obvious that the above is mostly unpatriotic rantings that if adopted will lead to an oligarch taking power, the subjugation of minorities, and the end of our Republic.
Too much for you?
Consider what is actually going on in our country. The Big Lie continues to dominate Republican thinking. It is now a litmus test for the party. If one does not support the allegation that the 2020 election was stolen and that President Joe Biden is not actually the president, then you are accused of being a traitor or at least a “RINO.” (Republican in Name Only.) Eight Senators and 139 Representatives voted to over turn the election. They still will not publicly recognize that Mr. Biden won. Still! And then they complain that the Biden Administration won’t work with them in a bipartisan way? Really? Republican legislatures are significantly rewriting election laws in numerous states in order to inhibit the vote. If you can’t win, cheat!
There is currently a “recount” ongoing in Maricopa County (Phoenix) Arizona to prove that there were irregularities in the last election. The effort is being conducted by a company called Cyber Ninjas. The CEO was very vocal in claiming that the election was stolen. It is not a county or state sanctioned recount and the company is unable to articulate the methods that they are using to “investigate” the ballots. Republican county and state officials have already held valid recounts and verified the original results. The only reason for this Cyber Ninja effort is to rile up the Trumpists and get them to continue to support a twice impeached, one term president. It is dangerous.
Why do they continue to push this alleged conspiracy? Because it is lucrative. A lot of politicians are making a lot of money by keeping the Big Lie alive.
Pushing the Big Lie and firing up people’s emotions is what directly lead to the insurrection at the Capitol on 6 January. Any accusations of nefarious activity in Arizona is going to rally the same white supremacists, Q-anon believers, and die hard right wing radicals to again take action.
Oh by the way, try and talk to any Republican in Congress about the insurrection, with the exception of too few such as Representative Liz Cheney (WY) and Senator Mitt Romney (UT) and a a handful of others. The majority want to “move on” “look to the future” and not to “dwell in the past.” Really? A mob tried to over throw the government, hang the Vice President and kill the Speaker of the House at the behest of the president and we should forget about it? No way. In my view all 147 members of Congress that supported overturning the election should be kicked out of Congress. The topic should come up any time those people are on TV or radio or hold any kind of press availability. Rub their noses in it. Hold them responsible.
Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA) is willing to hang Representative Cheney out to dry but continues to support Representatives Matt Gaetz (FL) and Marjorie Taylor-Greene (GA) and other wing nuts. What a profile in courage.
I think that Donald J. Trump is a has-been. Toast. But he unleashed a movement that brings out the worst in America. As one pundit recently put it, for four years we thought Republicans avoided condemning Trump’s worst actions and words because they were afraid of him. Not true. They stayed quiet because they agreed with him. They liked what he was saying. They are unleashed to do what they want.
So, yeah. Maybe the America First Caucus is a small minority, but I don’t think so. I think they reflect their party and roughly 70% of self-identified Republicans throughout the U.S.A. We can only hope that they end up like the Know Nothings. Perhaps a new Republican Party will emerge from the ashes. I hope so. Right now we only have one party that is willing to govern.
It is a dangerous game. I worry about the future of our great country. I worry that factions of our fellow citizens will act on the lies that they have come to believe.
“Uniquely Anglo-Saxon traditions.” It isn’t hard to understand the code.
Since the current national Republican Party has no policy initiatives or ideas to help the citizens of the United States, they have taken to claiming that the Democrats (even though they have nothing to do with any of the following) are pursuing a “cancel culture” to undermine American values. Just exactly what values those are depends on the Senator or Congressman speaking but, pick one, the Democrats are either fascists, communists, or socialists. Which, of course, totally ignores the fact that each of those is a totally different ideology from the others, but why should facts get in the way of “owning the libs,” which seems to be the Republicans number one goal. That, and continuing to push the Big Lie that the former guy actually won the 2020 election.
Recently, rather than put forth ideas to combat the ongoing pandemic, improve the economy or reform immigration, the Republican Party is focused on the “cancelling” of Dr. Seuss and Mr. Potato Head. That neither of those things were cancelled is beside the point. In fact, the family trust that owns the rights to the Dr. Seuss books decided not to republish six books out of the more than sixty that he wrote because they believed some of the characters “portray people in a way that is hurtful and wrong.” No books were banned. No books were pulled out of libraries. No Seuss police took books away from the little kids in your home. But why ruin a good scare tactic?
Likewise, the hullabaloo and the gnashing of teeth over dropping the “Mr.” from the Potato Head brand was all about nothing. The Hasbro toy company did not make Mr. Potato Head gender-neutral. According to the company CEO, the company is expanding its brand to the Potato Head Family. There can be a Mr., a Mrs., and kiddies — all gendered as assembled by the whims of the kids playing with them.
End of discussion.
But why stop there? Did those cancel culture Republicans understand the insidious nature of what was really going on? That kids were being secretly indoctrinated? More on that in a minute.
First, it might help to know where the term “cancel culture” comes from. In short, it was created by the black community in the United States and became, like so many things, appropriated by the white community that has no understanding of what it means. According to the Washington Post, the black song writer and leader of the band Chic Nile Rodgers wrote a song in 1981 about a date that he had in which he was embarrassed by the actions of the woman he was with and included this line in the lyrics, “No, your love is cancelled.” The song was not a particular hit, but some in the black community started using the line to indicate that someone’s behavior was inappropriate and therefore, I am “canceling you” as a friend, acquaintance or whatever. It became more mainstream in the 1990’s with the gangster movie “New Jack City” when the drug boss played by Wesley Snipes tells a subordinate (in non-blog friendly language) to “cancel” his girlfriend because she offended him. As she is being taken away he says, “I’ll buy another one.” The screen writer Michael Cooper stated that he was listening to the song written by Nile Rodgers when he wrote the cancel line. The term was later picked up by a number of rappers in various forms and it took off as part of the vernacular.
As usual, its ubiquitous use by white Republicans who stand for nothing other than fighting the culture wars, do not know the culture that the words came from. It just makes a nice bumper sticker. It is easier than trying to articulate, you know, actual policies and solutions to problems. Anything that you don’t agree with can just be dismissed as another attempt at cancel culture. Never mind that the former guy tried to cancel a presidential election and was aided and abetted by 147 Congressional Republicans that now complain about everything.
Here is something for those complaining about the cancel culture to think about.
Mr. Potato Head was introduced to the public in 1952 by Hasbro, the Pawtucket Rhode Island toy manufacturer and it was the first toy advertised on TV. I was a kid in the 50’s and I most certainly played with my Mr. Potato Head. And there was also a Mrs. Potato Head. I really enjoyed them. In the early days, the kit supplied various plastic parts, but we used real potatoes, and some folks used other vegetables, as the body. It was supply your own. Later in 1964, after complaints about rotting potatoes and vegetables and wasting food, Hasbro began including a plastic body in the kit. Before that it was BYOP.
And it just didn’t matter what kind of potato one used. It was valid to use Russet, Fingerling, Red Gold, Yukon Gold, Idaho, Maine, Kennebec, Red, Yellow, Purple, White, Norland, Magic Molly, Yams and Sweet Potatoes to name just a few. Talk about diversity! Potatoes of all shapes, sizes and colors. Wait. What? Mr. Potato Head could be any color, shape or size? Yep. I thought he was a white guy. Nope. Here is another thought. As I recall, Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head could come in the same package (I don’t know if they were actually married or just lived together.) Parts is parts. Especially if you are a little kid that just likes using her own imagination and putting together all kinds of interesting pieces of plastic stuck into a potato. A little of this, a little of that. Just playing. Hmmm. What gender is that Potato Head? If a boy played with Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head was he playing with dolls? Talk about subversive!
Was Hasbro indoctrinating an entire generation of Americans into accepting diversity in culture, color and sexual identity? Was it it a secret communist plot to destroy true blue 50s American values? Or was it just a kid’s game that was fun and allowed for kids to use their imagination?
Maybe the Republicans should put together a special investigative committee to find out what nefarious methods Hasbro and other toy makers used to indoctrinate young kids into a society other than a white, male dominated, Christian one.
It makes as much sense as anything else that Congressional Republicans are doing today.
The Senate tactic known as the filibuster is designed to prolong debate on a bill in order to delay or to prevent voting on the bill. It came into the Senate Rules in 1806 and, importantly, is nowhere to be found in the Constitution or other founding documents. It is an administrative rule for the Senate alone. Rules can change. This one is steeped in over two hundred years of usage and custom and is ingrained in the heart of the Senate. In 1917, with Senate Rule 22, for the first time the Senate adopted a change allowing a filibuster to end if there was a two-thirds majority vote to override it, a term known as cloture. In 1975, the Senate voted to reduce the two-thirds majority (currently 67 votes) needed for cloture to a three-fifths majority (60 votes). The 60 vote threshold is significant because it also changed the requirement for that number from those Senators present and voting to an absolute number of votes required, making it possible to filibuster without ever entering the Senate chamber. In recent years, the filibuster was abolished for judicial and other nominees, most famously allowing Cabinet nominees, federal judges, and Supreme Court nominees to be confirmed with a simple majority. The filibuster now is only used for legislation, although there are other arcane Senate rules that allow for passage of some budget bills with a simple majority. Notably, under the Senate rules, a piece of legislation can pass with a simple majority, it is the move for cloture that requires a 60 vote threshold. This allows for Senators to say that they would have been “for” a particular bill, but that procedurally, they were “against” moving forward without debate. In other words, many times the rule can be used to provide a given Senator or group of Senators political cover by not forcing them to vote up or down on a particular bill. It just never comes to the floor, leaving the Senator to be able to claim almost anything about what he or she might have done.
The filibuster was rarely used in the long history of the Senate, until the latter part of the twentieth century. Now, especially in a fiercely divided political atmosphere, it is being used with regularity. One person can stop a bill from coming to a vote if his or her party refuses to supply sufficient votes for cloture. This is extremely frustrating to the majority party, and is a major reason that little significant legislation gets passed.
There is no penalty for a single Senator to threaten a filibuster. They do not have to go to the floor anymore to actually hold the floor and talk — think Jimmy Stewart in the 1939 film “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.” The last time a similar scene occurred was in September 2013 when Senator Ted Cruz (TX) held the floor for 21 hours 18 minutes in an attempt to shut down the government by opposing an appropriations bill. In August 1957 Senator Strom Thurmond (SC) talked for 24 hours and 18 minutes to filibuster the Civil Rights Act of 1957, the longest single-person filibuster in U.S. history. The bill passed. (Senator Thurmond was part of a group of Senators that used the filibuster to hold up The Civil Rights Act of 1964 for 60 days.) Originally, no other legislation or business could be conducted in the Senate during a filibuster. In 1970, as a reaction to Senator Thurmond’s and other southern Senators’ filibusters of civil rights legislation, the Senate adopted the “two track rule.” This allows for other bills and business to come to the floor while the filibuster is on. This allowed the Senate to become more efficient, but opened the door to ever increasing threats of a filibuster because there were no real consequences to saying that a particular Senator will filibuster. They can sit in their office and play solitaire if they so desire, while their threat holds up a bill that may not reach cloture.
Why the history lesson? I am no Parliamentarian and I am not trying to make anyone else one either, but it is helpful to try and understand where we are in our Republic today.
The filibuster is considered to be the one rule that makes the Senate what it is (or was) — the world’s greatest deliberative body. The idea is that the majority cannot cram through any whim of the moment piece of legislation. The minority party can block it. In theory, this is supposed to lead to negotiation and compromise, steering a steady course for the nation as the Senate provides a firm hand on the tiller to keep the wind and currents driving the People’s House from putting our country on the rocks. Unfortunately, in today’s environment, compromise and negotiation are dirty words to the extreme fringes of the political parties. It is easier to go on Fox News or other cable networks and make a name for oneself among the “base” as “fighting” to save Mr. Potato Head or whatever, than it is to actually do their jobs.
To be honest, why would President Biden or any Democrat in Congress want to compromise or negotiate with the other side when 147 of them in the House and Senate, nearly two-thirds, voted to overturn a free and fair election? And after an insurrection at that. Most of those 147 still will not acknowledge that President Biden won. The president held out an olive branch, but he rightly moved ahead with the COVID Relief Bill without a single Republican vote. Not one Republican in the House or Senate, despite the fact that every poll shows that 75% of the public — Democrats, Republicans and Independents — support it. Try for bipartisanship, but move on with the people’s business if all the opposition wants to do is obstruct.
I used to agree with the need for the filibuster. It was what made the Senate the Senate and not the whimsical House of Representatives. Now, I have changed my mind. The filibuster as currently interpreted must be changed. If no one can agree on how to change it, get rid of it. The counter-argument to keep it basically amounts to “pay backs are hell” — just wait until Republicans regain control of the Senate and watch them undo everything on a straight party line vote. After reading about the filibuster and listening to various pros and cons, I still think it should go. First, I have no doubt that if Senator Mitch McConnell (KY) regains his place as Majority Leader he will get rid of it in some form. Second, elections have consequences. Whichever party is in control will pass legislation to fulfill their agenda. The voters sent them there to do that. Right now the Senate accomplishes very little. If the controlling party passes legislation the voters do not like, they will vote them out of office. As it stands now, Senators have very little accountability. Modifying the filibuster or doing away with it will bring the spotlight on to those that would sabotage legislation and force them to defend their position.
Here is the point of this discussion. There are 253 bills proposed in 43 states, almost all by Republicans, to change voting laws. Most are meant to inhibit voters from going to the polls and are geared towards disenfranchising minorities. For example, in Georgia the legislature, among other things, is prohibiting Sunday voting. This is directly aimed at eliminating the successful efforts to mobilize black voters through “Souls to the Polls.” This is where many working class African-Americans go from Sunday church services to their polling places as a group. Many of them are people who may not be able to get off of work to vote on Election Day. Other provisions limit early voting, severely restricts voting by mail, and for some reason makes it illegal to provide food or water to people waiting in line to vote. There are other draconian measures in the legislation that is clearly aimed at decreasing turnout by making it as difficult as possible for people to vote, mostly aimed directly at minority populations in large cities. Jim Crow is alive and well.
The House passed H.R. 1 the “For The People Act” without a single Republican vote. The bill provides a uniform baseline within the U.S. for voting. It includes provisions for voter registration, early voting, voting by mail (it is worth noting that Oregon holds its elections entirely by mail and has done so for years without any problems), military and other overseas voters, election integrity, nonpartisan commissions for drawing up House districts, election security, the use of paper ballots as back up to electronic voting and a host of other common sense requirements.
Traditionally, the rules and methods for voting are left up to the states. H.R. 1 does not preclude states from adding additional features, as long as it does not restrict the baseline requirements proposed in the bill. In essence, it would make it easier for all Americans to vote. Voting can be done with full integrity with large numbers of participants, and we demonstrated that in the 2020 election. The ex-president’s own Administration called it the most free and fair election in our history with an historic turnout.
But the Big Lie continues to underpin Republican arguments that the voting process must be changed. As recently as this past Tuesday, the ex-president went on his favorite cable news channel to continue to complain that the election was rigged and that he actually won by “millions” of votes. Republican members of the House and Senate continue to do the same. Their entire premise for changing states’ voting laws is a lie.
The Senate version of H.R. 1 will not pass if the Republicans filibuster it, which they plan to do. This is where the rubber meets the road and could create the conditions to end the filibuster. Many people, me included, think that restricting the vote and disenfranchising Americans must be stopped and is alone sufficient cause to end the filibuster in order to save our Republic.
Try modifying the filibuster first. Perhaps going back to the time that a Senator or group of Senators actually have to hold the floor, talk, and be present for the entire filibuster. Perhaps by invoking a rule that three-fifths of the Senators present in the chamber can vote for cloture. I am sure that a good Parliamentarian can come up with a number of ways to preserve the filibuster but still make Senators put some sweat equity into the process and make them defend their position in public.
I would love for Republican Senators to have to publicly defend their disenfranchisement of African-Americans and other minorities. I would be truly interested in having them explain and defend restrictions on early voting, vote by mail, polls closed on Sunday and other restrictive measures. It would be fascinating to learn why a Senator thinks that it should be illegal to provide food and water to people waiting in line to vote.
Change the filibuster rule to make Senators accountable to the voters. Do not let them continue to hide behind arcane rules that hide their true values and intentions. If it can’t be changed, then get rid of it.
Thursday was the “official” one year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic. On 11 March 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared it one. At the time of the declaration there were 118,000 known cases world-wide and 4,291 deaths. On that day, the NBA suspended its season, the NCAA said that there would be no fans for March Madness (the Division I championship — the next day the tournament was cancelled), and Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson announced that they tested positive for the Coronavirus. On that day the now ex-president addressed the nation on developments, tried to reassure the nation (“the risk is very, very low”), and banned travel from the European Union (EU) (except the United Kingdom) for 30 days, causing mass confusion due to a lack of warning or coordination with our European allies. Unfortunately, the virus was already here and spreading quickly.
On that day there were just over 1,000 known cases in the U.S. and 31 dead, mostly in Washington state. Dr. Anthony Fauci testified to Congress that day and warned that the outbreak was spreading and that “it’s going to get worse.” We were also in the midst of a stock market collapse. On 11 March alone the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) dropped over 1,200 points, continuing a downward trend and closing about 20% lower than its peak the month before. The nation was in the midst of a crisis that few had experienced in our lifetimes. The economy tanked almost overnight following a spate of shutdowns and lock downs and no one was sure as to what precautions each of us should take to prevent the spread of the disease.
One year later, there are roughly 118 million known cases around the world and 2.6 million deaths. Unfortunately, the U.S. is number one in total known cases and deaths — as of today, we have experienced approximately 29,287,876 cases and 530,977 deaths. We lead the world in both categories. And yet, many of our fellow citizens do not take the pandemic seriously, or worse yet, some still think that it is a hoax. Like so many issues over the last four years, we Americans have managed to politicize a deadly disease that took far too many of us over the course of one year.
Just think what the reaction would be a year ago if any scientist or doctor or other health expert predicted that one year after declaring the pandemic, the U.S. would have over 530,000 dead Americans. Outrage! Scare tactics! Using the numbers to gain a political advantage! No one would have believed it. At the time, our worst case predictions were in the 100,000 to 200,000 range. Worst case. We would be in the lower end of the scale if precautions were taken, in the upper end if they were not. It was hard to imagine. Some Americans argue that “they would have died anyway” and that the figures are inflated. Well, in one respect, the critics are correct — every living thing dies eventually. But those 530,977 died before their time and many of them died alone without comfort or love from families or friends. But for arguments sake, let’s say that the numbers are twice as high as “the real” pandemic death toll. That is still over 265,000 dead Americans. How is that really any better? It still means that we did twice as bad as the predictions from one year ago. It also ignores the long-term impact on the health of people that were sick, but survived. Some have been hospitalized for months. We just do not know what the second order impact of the disease might be over time.
Here is what bothers me the most. These days people talk about “over 500,000 deaths” to date. That means that 30,977 dead Americans are a rounding error. We should be appalled if that was the total number of human beings lost to the disease. Now it’s just a rounding error. That is where we are today. Perhaps the full measure of the huge number is difficult to comprehend. Think of it in individual terms. All of those families, friends and acquaintances that were impacted by that number of dead Americans. It is staggering.
No one is responsible for the pandemic coming to America. Plenty, however, are responsible for lying to us, misleading us, politicizing the disease, actively undermining common sense measures to stop the spread, and generally providing poor leadership in refusing to take the easiest steps to slow down the spread significantly. This was the greatest health disaster in our country in at least 100 years. We should have been better, smarter, united and focused in combatting this scourge. Didn’t happen. There were no “miracles.” No bleach injected into bodies. Hydroxychloroquine did not make it “just go away.”
Instead, people lost their lives and livelihoods. Went hungry. Fell behind in their educations. Created massive food lines that differ only from those of the Great Depression by the fact that you can drive through instead of line up on the sidewalk. Many of us have seemingly lost a year of our lives without the benefit of friends or family to carry out even the most basic of our social rituals. And it didn’t have to be this way.
Thankfully, if we can stay the course and stay smart in taking precautions, we are nearly through the worst of it. Only a few more months to go as more and more people are able to receive the vaccinations that appear to be very effective. Compare the presidential speeches of 11 March 2020 and 11 March 2021. Leadership is back. More importantly, technically and scientifically competent people are back in charge within the Administration, working day and night to fight to get us out of this mess created by a silent killer.
Stay safe. We are almost there. No one wants to be the last war casualty before the Armistice goes into force.
It was a long tough year. A lot has changed, a lot has not. I trust that a year from now we will be able to memorialize those that we lost, without having lost a lot more.
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.