Today, any hope of bipartisanship in the era of Trumpism died in the Senate. Senate Republicans succeeded in blocking the bill that creates a bipartisan 1/6 Commission (H.R. 3233) to “report on the facts and causes relating to the January 6, 2021 domestic terrorist attack on the United States Capitol Complex.” This deadly attempt to overthrow the 2020 election shook our democracy to the core and resulted in the loss of five people and injuries to 140 police officers. The procedural vote to move on to debate and consideration of amendments went down in a 54-35 vote. 60 votes were needed to break a threatened filibuster. Six Senators from the group formerly known as the Republican Party voted with Democrats to move forward.
I would say that those that voted against creating the Commission should be profoundly ashamed of themselves, but like so much over the last few years — say it with me now — They. Don’t. Care. They have no shame. They have no moral compass. Just blind allegiance to their cult leader.
An investigation will take place in the Congress, as existing committees can subpoena witnesses and investigate what happened. The president can convene a Presidential Commission to investigate the attack. Most probably, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (CA) under her own power will convene a Select Committee, including Republicans, to consolidate the investigations in Congress. The point of the Commission that Republicans blocked today was to make it bipartisan — even non-partisan — with the power and resources, under a proscribed timeline (that requires its work to finish by 31 December of this year), to give the country an unbiased look at what happened and how to prevent it from recurring. It was modeled closely on the 9/11 Commission that investigated the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. The breach of the Capitol was a domestic terrorist attack by white supremacists and other dangerous groups — and the majority of the minority party said that they aren’t interested.
On 14 May of this year, the Department of Homeland Security (HLS) issued a second National Terrorism Advisory Bulletin that will be in effect until 13 August. It warns that Domestic Violent Extremists (DVE) may try to exploit the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions to engage in “grievance-based violence.” The same grievances that created the conditions for the 6 January attack and that an ex-president and his lackeys such Representatives Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Marjorie Taylor-Greene (Q-GA), and others, continue to shout about at every opportunity. The Big Lie may be the most successful propaganda campaign in U.S. history, and probably in the top ten in history. All of this stokes violence and all of this is perfectly okay with most Republicans in Congress.
The Commission had everything in it — I repeat, everything — that Senate and House Republicans insisted must be included in order for them to support it. Surprise! They got it. Then the word came down from the mob boss at Mar-a-Lago that nothing shall be done. And so it is that nothing shall be done.
Please! Never again tell me that Congressional Republicans support law enforcement. They voted to defund the Capitol Police. They voted to stop a commission that would investigate the violent attacks on them on 6 January. They do not care one bit about Blue Lives when it matters.
Here is a larger take-away for the Democrats. Do not waste time on any bipartisan efforts. Just do what needs to be done. Hopefully, Democrats have read the Peanuts comic strip by Charles Schulz. Do not let the Republicans be the Lucy to your Charlie Brown where despite continued assurances that this time I will absolutely not pull the football away, Charlie Brown tries to kick it and falls flat on his back when she does. Every time. This is where we are now. The Republicans got everything that they wanted in the bill creating the Commission. Yet, they would not vote for it. Why should the Democrats ever consider that Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) or Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) will do anything that the Democrats propose? Or even that their word means anything at all? If there is even a hint that the Democrats or the Biden Administration will consider the passage of any legislation a “win,” they will work to block it. Senator McConnell already publicly stated that he is “100%” focused on blocking anything the Administration puts forward.
The failure of most Congressional Republicans to support the Commission is shameful and a black mark on our history that will be a part of their legacy. It is up to the remaining, and increasingly only, party that cares about democracy to take action. As the Rolling Stones song says, “…don’t get fooled again.”
We’ll be fighting in the streets
With our children at our feet
And the morals that they worship will be gone
And the men who spurred us on
Sit in judgement of all wrong
They decide and the shotgun sings the song
I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again
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.