“If I was going to do a coup, one of the last people I would want to do it with is General Mark Milley.”
— Donald J. Trump in a 15 July 2021 statement.
It is nice to know that the ex-president would not use the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) to lead a coup, but his statement above begs the question as to who his first choice might be.
The pronouncement is a reaction to an excerpt from the book I Alone Can Fix It by Pulitzer Prize winning journalists Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker of the Washington Post. In the book, General Milley is reported to have been deeply concerned that the ex-president would attempt a coup after he lost the election. The CJCS spoke of the ex-president following the “gospel of the Fuhrer” and creating a possible “Reichstag moment” in the wake of the ex-president’s Big Lie about the election. (Regular readers of this blog will recall that my 11 December 2020 post expressed the same concerns. Although I did not know of the CJCS worries at that time, it was obviously a wide-spread fear.)
I must say that in the days since the 6 January insurrection, my apprehensions about the future of our democracy have only grown deeper. I think that we are in a real crisis.
It is easy for me to ignore the incoherent rantings of a demented ex-president who spends his time scamming his followers and relieving them of their hard earned dollars. What I cannot ignore is the concerted, coordinated effort of elected Republican leaders at all levels of government to continue to push the Big Lie, spread concern over the safety of the Coronavirus vaccine, and work to divide our country for their own personal ego, power and monetary gain.
Our democracy was attacked on 6 January 2021 with the aim of overthrowing an election and extending the reign of a budding autocrat in a clear violation of our Constitution. As the criminal investigation continues, it is ever more clear that the goal of the majority of the rioters that entered the Capitol building was to prevent the certification of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States. Without the protection of the Capitol Police and Metropolitan Police (DC), sprinkled with a heavy dose of luck, law makers would have been severely injured or killed, and, in my view, the loser candidate would have invoked the Insurrection Act and sent the active duty military into the streets. That was certainly General Milley’s concern and he had a front row seat to the inner workings of the administration.
If there is any doubt about that, consider another passage of I Alone Can Fix It where the authors report that the ex-president’s only regret is that he did not send troops into American cities during the Black Lives Matter demonstrations last summer. Not the National Guard. Active duty military forces. He was willing to use the American military against American citizens in order to silence their protests because he feared he looked weak. His only regret. Not the hundreds of thousands of people that died from the mishandling of the pandemic, not the refusal of people to take the vaccine because they think it is some kind of badge of loyalty to him, not the insurrection he fomented to bring down our democracy. Only that he did not use American military might in the streets of American cities.
Now Republicans of various stripes (perhaps down the middle of their backs?) are working hard to change the narrative surrounding the insurrection. In typical Orwellian fashion, Senate Republicans blocked a bipartisan commission to investigate the events surrounding 6 January which included everything the Republicans wanted — including a co-equal chairmanship, bipartisan agreement on subpoenas, and on, and on. As a result, the Speaker of the House moved forward with a House Select Committee to investigate. Immediately came the howls of “partisanship” “politics” and other accusations that would be laughable if not so serious. They blocked a bipartisan effort! But now it is partisan. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Tr-CA) appointed five members to the Committee, of which two were clearly installed to disrupt and distract from the serious proceeding. When the Speaker took the highly unusual step of blocking those two individuals, Mr. McCarthy withdrew all of his nominees. He now intends to have his own, Republican only, inquiry into the insurrection. The intent of that move will be to create a circus to divert attention from what really happened. The current Republican mantra is that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is the real cause of the attack. (Remember, logic and fact-based reality no longer apply to anything 90% of Republican officials say these days, which I find subversive and un-American because they know better. Mr. McCarthy thinks that he will be Speaker of the House after the 2022 elections and he will do anything to achieve that goal. God Bless America if he becomes Speaker because we will certainly need it.)
While Mr. McCarthy’s investigative committee will be partisan, at least two Republicans will be on the official Select Committee. Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) was on the original appointee list (Speaker Pelosi gave her one of the Democrat’s slots) and today we learned that the Speaker appointed Representative Adam Kinzinger (R-ILL) to the committee. It will be bi-partisan. Politically, there is little to nothing that I agree on with those two Representatives, but I admire their courage and willingness to put the Constitution and our country above raw politics.
While I am 100 percent in favor of the Select Committee doing a thorough investigation, I have little hope that they will be able to accomplish all that we might expect had the original bi-partisan commission been able to do its work. I deeply suspect that members of Congress and/or their staff members were involved to varying degrees in the events of that day. Although the committee will have subpoena power, a lesson learned from the previous administration is that individuals can ignore Congressional subpoenas with impunity. The Congress has no real method to force people to testify other than by going to the courts. In recent years, we learned that even if individuals eventually get ordered by the courts to testify, it could be two or three years of court fights before they are so ordered. Even then there is nothing to compel them to talk. We may even find that the Biden Department of Justice protects some of the high ranking officials of the previous administration because they do not want to set a precedent of undermining Executive Privilege. I believe that our country needs to fully understand what happened and hold those responsible accountable. In the current political climate, we may never fully know who did what.
Meanwhile, the Big Lie continues to spread. There may be no bigger threat to our democracy. The 2020 election was the safest, most secure in our nation’s history. Yet, millions of people think that the election was “stolen” and that President Biden is not the legitimate leader of our country. Once people lose faith in the election process, and thus think that any election that does not turn out as they would like is fraudulent, they will take action as they did in January to “restore” what they think was stolen.
In another Orwellian twist, the only way to change the proliferating election laws resulting from the Big Lie is to vote out those people that are implementing them, but the laws are designed to keep them in power. There will be challenges in the courts, but meanwhile elections continue under the new laws. Even should voters succeed in dumping the old gang, the laws are written such that legislatures or other partisan officials can overturn the will of the people if they decide they don’t like the results. So first they are trying to suppress the vote to stay in charge, but should that fail, measures are in place to overturn the elections.
These are turbulent times. What is happening is not “politics as usual.” It doesn’t have anything to do with politics. It is a direct assault on our way of governing. Most people are not really paying attention to what is going on around our country with changes to election laws, fake audits of the 2020 election, and active measures to undermine the vote. Misinformation, disinformation and pure unadulterated lies are being used to curtail our right to vote and to end the peaceful transfer of power.
Perhaps the assault on the Capitol was more like the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch than the 1933 Reichstag Fire. We must remain ever vigilant to keep history from repeating itself.
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.