Most of us watched yesterday’s events in the nation’s Capitol with horror, dismay, and sadness. It was a terrible day for democracy. First, Trump loyalists in Congress worked to overthrow an election that was won by President-elect Joe Biden with over seven million more votes than the incumbent. That in itself was appalling. Yet, at the same time, and in an effort to overthrow the election and prevent Congress from certifying the results, the President of the United States committed treason by inciting his followers to riot at the Capitol. Not since 1814 when the British burned Washington D.C. during the War of 1812 has our Capitol building been assaulted and ransacked. This was no exercise in First Amendment rights, it was a full-fledged mob intent on deliberately wreaking havoc. These were domestic terrorists.
What did Trump do while the attack was underway? He posted a video hours after it began rehashing his alleged grievances, perfunctorily asking the rioters to go home and then closing by saying “We love you.” In other words, Trump was happy that they did what they did. His sidekick Rudy Giuliani also riled up the crowd by telling them that they needed to undergo “a trial by combat” at the Capitol. Not content with that bit of rabble rousing, the president’s sons Don and Eric also told the crowd to “stop the steal” and declared that “This is Donald Trump’s Republican Party!”
I want to know why they have not been arrested, the whole lot of them. They sent the mob on its way to do harm. Four people lost their lives in the melee. Those responsible need to be held accountable. The terrorists inside the Capitol were clearly proud of what they were doing. Most of them took selfies and videos of themselves. Others clearly knew that security cameras were capturing their actions. The FBI and other law enforcement agencies must track these people down and hold them accountable to the fullest extent of the law.
Trump must go. There is no way that he can remain as president. Between his criminal phone call to Georgia election officials and his speech yesterday that incited violence he has broken enough laws to be impeached or otherwise removed. The House could vote today to impeach him. All they need to do is play the tape from Saturday and his speech from yesterday and they would have all of the evidence that they need.
For those that argue he “only” has thirteen days left in office, I would point out that yesterday morning he only had fourteen days in office and we now know what havoc he can create without shame or remorse. He is a desperate man willing to do anything to keep from having to face the reality that he will be just another citizen in less than two weeks. As with any other citizen, he will be subject to prosecution for past and present crimes. He has a lot to worry about. He must be removed before his next attack on our democracy.
Equally despicable are Trump loyalists in the House and Senate that continue to defraud Trump’s supporters by challenging the validity of the election. The whole bunch should be fired but the pure naked, raw power play perpetrated by Senators Josh Hawley (MO) and Ted Cruz (TX) deserves special scorn. Even after Congress reconvened following the attack, they continued to challenge the results of the election in Arizona and Pennsylvania. I hope that the good citizens of their states hold them accountable. I trust that the other Senators will shun them. They deserve all of the scorn that can be sent their way.
Today there are members of Trump’s cult in the Congress and in the media (I’m looking at you Fox News) that are spreading more lies by claiming that the rioters really were not Trumpists. They claim that the rioters were “radical leftists” dressed up as Trump supporters to make them look bad. These Trump enablers will stop at nothing to install Trump as a dictator, otherwise there is no explanation for the scurrilous statements that they make. They continue to try and destroy our democracy. Lies, lies, and more lies. It feeds their narrative and undermines truth and authority. If you don’t know what to believe you can believe any old thing that suits your own narrative. The lies start at the top. Trump is now at about 30,000 provable lies since he took office. According to the Washington Post, he told 500 lies on the day before the election alone. He is an effective liar as well. If he knows nothing else, he knows how to tap into people’s fears and grievances and stoke them until a mob is willing to do his bidding. Even if it means overthrowing the government.
This raises another question. Why was security so lax when Trump had been promising for weeks that his thugs were going to do bad things in D.C.? Before the insurrectionists arrived at the Capitol building Trump had already given his marching orders to wreak havoc. Why wasn’t there a response to reinforce the flimsy, business as usual, deployment of law enforcement officers? It seems fishy to me. The rioters got into the building way too easily. I am not by nature a conspiracy theorist looking for things that do not exist, but given all of the circumstances it just does not ring true to me that the only explanation is that the Capitol Police were overwhelmed by the crowd. In individual cases I am sure that is true. My concern and suspicion is focused on the larger picture of why security was so lax. Where were the units from the Department of Homeland Security? Where were the National Guard members activated for the days surrounding the counting of the Electoral votes? Where were the Department of Justice special units, especially those from the FBI? There was no federal presence to prevent an attack and their response to the attack came several hours after the assault began.
Take any Black Lives Matter demonstration from this summer, including in Washington D.C. and you will see hordes of uniformed people from the “alphabet soup” of federal agencies with law enforcement officers, many of them trained in handling riots and urban violence. For the BLM marches there were rows upon rows of National Guard personnel deployed on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, for example. Our Capital should be one of the most secure places in our country, and yet it was easily overrun by a mob intent on fomenting a coup. Could it have been because the rioters were mostly white “decent folk”? Anyone that wants to know why black lives matter rings true for most of our African-American neighbors, all one has to do is compare how the mostly peaceful demonstrations of the BLM movement were handled with how this mob was handled. Only fourteen arrests were made in the Capital. Watching the coverage on TV, I could see the police helping rioters up and down steps. There was just a more relaxed vibe and method for many of the police officers outside the building. It was different than the actions surrounding many BLM demonstrations. Which is to take nothing away from those officers inside the building that truly put themselves in harm’s way to protect the Members of Congress and the others that work there.
Here is my take away from yesterday’s events. Trump’s primary appeal, and certainly to those attempting the coup, is to those that believe white, Christian men should run the country. Period. All others are “outsiders” that may or may not be allowed to live in this country depending on whether they stay in line and acquiesce to those that “deserve” to be here. I was struck by the nonchalant attitude of those on camera. They were mostly at ease, relaxed and acting as though they owned the place. They showed no respect for the solemnity or symbolism of the halls, chambers and offices. Rather than “if you break it, you own it,” they seemed to have the attitude that because we own it we can break it. When you are supposed to be the rulers of the world, you can do pretty much anything that you want. It was that attitude that struck me the most. I am still shaking with anger and with sadness that one man and his lawless supporters can attack our democracy with impunity and without regard for the damage to our country that they are causing.
Trump has never been held accountable for any of his outrageous actions. He must be held accountable now. If the Vice President and the Cabinet fail to act under the 25th Amendment within the next 24 hours, then the House must immediately begin the impeachment process. I say this with a heavy heart as it will inevitably make a bad situation worse as his supporters will rally to his side and inflict violence across America. Unfortunately, Trump may cause that to happen anyway. Therefore, we cannot wait to take action. It is time for our national leaders in the government, the House and the Senate, regardless of party, to stand up for America rather than for themselves or a cult leader.
Our proud nation has taken a heavy blow. It will take action and time to recover. With the next president we will have a chance to heal and to restore sanity to our national discourse. The change cannot come fast enough for me.
On 27 February 1933 the German Reichstag (parliament) building burned down. The cause of the fire is still not definitively known, but the Nazis are suspected of setting it. They then were able to exploit the situation by claiming that the Communists were behind it as the beginning of an uprising to overthrow the government. They convinced President Paul von Hindenburg to allow the Nazis under Chancellor Adolf Hitler to issue an emergency decree the following day. Popularly known as the Reichstag Fire Decree it allowed the suspension of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right to assemble, and allowed for the arrest of political opponents, the dissolving of political organizations, the ability to overrule state and local laws and the power to overthrow state and local governments, among other rights previously enjoyed in Germany. The following month the Reichstag passed the Enabling Act of 1933 effectively making Adolf Hitler a dictator.
Thankfully, we are not in such dire straits here in the United States. But we are inching ever closer to a total collapse of our democracy. As I mentioned in my last posting, the Texas Attorney General brought a suit to the Supreme Court asking the court to throw out the entirety of the ballots cast in Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia and Pennsylvania. Oddly, it seems that the only election problems in the country are in swing states that Mr. Trump lost. The desired effect would be that Donald J. Trump then becomes president for another term. (And I will say more than one if this gambit succeeds.) Legal experts far and wide declared such a lawsuit a total travesty and predicted that the Supreme Court will not take the case.
I hope that the experts are correct, but even if they are, very un-American developments indicate further trouble ahead.
In the past few days, seventeen other states joined the suit supporting the Texas claim. Six others are in the process of joining. As of this writing, 106 of the 196 “Republican” members of the House have signed on to officially support the suit in court. This includes the Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Trumpist – CA). Senator Ted Cruz (Trumpist – TX) volunteered to argue the case before the Court.
Think about that for a minute. Nearly half of the state Attorneys General in the United States are actively working to overturn a fair and free election and disenfranchise millions of our fellow citizens. Roughly 25% of all the members of the House and 55% of them in one of the two major parties think it wise, prudent, and legal to ignore their oath to the Constitution and instead pledge their allegiance to one man — a cult leader that wants to undo our democracy by claiming without evidence that the election was stolen from him. They explain away the lack of evidence, and the fact that “Rudy’s Travelling Circus” already lost more than 50 court cases trying to undo the election, by saying — and I wish I was kidding — that the fraud and deception was so masterful that they (whoever they are that perpetrated this heinous crime but the words “liberal socialists” comes up a lot) did not leave a single clue as to their nefarious deeds.
On Wednesday Mr. Trump himself dropped all pretense of what he was doing and moved on from claiming a fraudulent election to just plain saying that it needs to be overturned. He started the morning by Tweet saying simply “OVERTURN.”
It is just too scary. Anyone that wonders how otherwise educated populations can watch democracy get stolen and replaced by an autocrat need not wonder anymore.
So what happens when the Supreme Court throws out the suit? Your guess is as good as mine, but clearly no one in his party seems to be bothered by anything that Mr. Trump does no matter how harebrained, incredible, or illegal it may be. Mr. Trump only can take away one thing from this debacle. He can get away with anything and the majority of his party in leadership roles will support him or look the other way. He was more prophetic than we knew four years ago when Mr. Trump said that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and get away with it.
The essence of our democracy is that we fight hard for our principles and policies, but that when the election is over, we put away our differences long enough for a peaceful transition of power. We honor the results of elections. For the first time in our history since at least the election of 1860, that is not happening. There is now a stark division in our country. There are those that believe in the power of democracy (Democrats, many independents, and the remaining real Republicans) and those that believe that if the election does not turn out in your favor, you change the result through any means necessary (Trump cultists). This is how democracy ends.
I remain steadfast in my belief that Joseph Biden will be sworn in as president on 20 January 2021. However, I shudder at the damage that may be done to our country in the remaining six weeks before then. How can our government govern after January if a significant number of those in Congress refuse to recognize the legitimate transfer of power? How far will they take it? Will the Trumpists refuse to consent to Mr. Biden’s cabinet choices? Will they freeze all legislation to undermine the economy to make life as difficult as possible for the Biden Administration? The list could go on and on.
Our way of government ultimately rests on trust. Trust in our elections and their results are the foundation of our way of choosing officials and for them to govern. That trust is being deliberately threatened to suit the whims of one man. This is some bad stuff.
My reference to the Reichstag Fire is not me setting my hair on fire or yelling that the sky is falling. Not yet anyway. It does, however, have some frightening parallels to what is happening now and stands as a stark reminder that dictators and ruthless regimes don’t just show up out of nowhere. They grow from misconceptions, ruthless propaganda, and a population that goes along or chooses not to get involved.
Someone out there has a box of matches and is willing to use them. We must not let those that swore an oath to protect and defend our country give up our Constitutional rights in the name of one delusional wannabe dictator.
What is it with the former Republican Party? Even as I write, they continue their assault on the foundation of our republic. Likely, this will cause permanent long-term damage to our country. Tens of millions of people in the United States think, thanks to the rantings of Donald J. Trump and the continued efforts of national Republicans, that last month’s election was riddled with fraudulent practices and was rigged in favor of President-elect Joe Biden. To what end is this lie continuing even as the Electoral College is preparing to cast the majority of their votes for Mr. Biden on Monday 14 December?
Mr. Trump is nearly out of legal moves to dispute the election and is moving on to illegal attempts to change the outcome of the election. In every sense of the word, he is attempting a coup. Within the past week he twice telephoned the Pennsylvania Speaker of the House to pressure him into calling a special session of the legislature to replace the duly elected Electors with a slate pledged to Mr. Trump. This is the third state that he directly and personally meddled with trying to get them to change the results or overturn them outright. (The other two are Michigan and Georgia.) Last night a leading Trumpist Senator Lindsey Graham from South Carolina went on Fox News to berate the Republican Governor of Georgia to “not sit on your a**” and to call a special session of the legislature to challenge Mr. Biden’s victory in the state.
To date, state officials, Democrats and Republicans, are holding the line, upholding the law, and refusing to cave to Mr. Trump’s demands. However, pressure is mounting on Congressional Republicans to challenge the Electoral College results when they are certified on 6 January 2021. Two Republican Congressmen say that they will challenge the results. Under the 12th Amendment and the 1887 law known as the Electoral Count Act, the word “certifies” is not well defined. It takes only one Representative and one Senator to object to certifying a particular electoral slate. The objection must be in writing and signed by each. The House and Senate then decides separately on how to resolve the issue via a vote. (Normally they confer and often use a Joint Committee to resolve any issues.) The last time a slate was challenged was in 2005 when there was an objection to Ohio’s electoral slate. The issue was debated and quickly resolved.
More foolishness came today when the Republicans on the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies refused to vote in favor of saying that the inauguration was for Mr. Biden and his running mate Ms. Harris. They argued that the process was still playing out and yet to be officially resolved. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a law suit today with the U.S. Supreme Court against Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin claiming that those states “used the Covid-19 pandemic to justify ignoring federal and state election laws.” Over the weekend the Washington Post released the results of their survey of all 249 Republicans in the House and Senate asking if they accepted that Mr. Biden won the election. Only 27 said that they did. Two claimed that Mr. Trump won. The other 220 said that it was too early to say or refused to answer the question.
And on and on. What in the good name of democracy is going on? Why aren’t more people upset by this direct assault on our most fundamental right as American citizens? What inspires national Republicans to stay in this cult of personality and with unwavering loyalty bring down our democracy in the process?
I have heard a variety of explanations. They fear him, still, even as a loser. That he will run for president again in 2024 and they want to be on his good side. That if they don’t support him they will be “primaryed” by someone Mr. Trump supports. That they are letting him work through the various stages of grief until he realizes that he is a loser. There are lots of driveling excuses floating around. None of them make any sense any longer. Even if they did make sense once, c’mon man, it’s over! Let’s follow the norms and traditions that make this country great.
Reflecting on why we are in this situation it occurred to me that possibly, maybe probably, none of those answers trotted out by the pundits are accurate. There may be elements of truth in them, but that is not the main motivator of their abhorrent actions.
The real reason is that the true believers like what he is doing.
Some may be cynical in that they believe their own political self-preservation depends on Mr. Trump remaining in power. Others may have the same autocratic tendencies that Mr. Trump daily exhibits. Some may just believe that Democrats in government, all of them — every one — are so inherently evil that they have to do everything, and that means everything, in their power to stop them from taking over the government. Any end is better than that.
With that epiphany, it is not that the Republicans are afraid of Mr. Trump and have lost their spine. They are not. They want him to succeed. Think of that. One of the two major parties in our democracy would rather see an election overturned by unethical and un-American methods rather than give up power. Autocracy? They are down with that. For four years I have tried to figure out why they go along with absolutely every crazy thing this president does, even if it goes directly against everything they said they stood for in the past. The explanation was actually quite simple. They like it, they like the power they have, and they don’t want to give it up.
If they have learned anything from Mr. Trump, they have learned that if you have the power you can do anything. There really are no laws or Constitutional limits to what you can do if you are just nervy enough to do it. Who can stop the president? It turns out that if you just ignore subpoenas, hearings and inquiries nothing happens. Impeached? Who cares if you have a Senate that wants to keep you in power no matter what. Pack the Supreme Court? Sure. You need a little luck through resignations or deaths but if you are in charge you can set any rules that you want. Hand out pardons to your political cronies and dirty tricksters? No problem, no one can stop you. Staying in power is paramount. Once in power, you are in control. Of everything.
Here is where it gets scary.
The national Republican Party is selling the same bill of goods to their supporters that Mr. Trump is selling. There are millions of people in the country that are convinced that Mr. Trump will be sworn in as president on 20 January 2021. Convinced. As the Wisconsin conservative pundit Charlie Sykes said recently, the realization that Mr. Trump is no longer the president will be such a shock to their beliefs and world view that their actions will be totally unpredictable. We already had armed protesters over the weekend show up at the home of the Michigan Secretary of State in a pure move of intimidation. When the true believers realize that they have been lied to, they are not going to take it out on Mr. Trump. They will default to the Trumpian explanation that their votes were stolen, the election rigged and that democracy is dead. There are both short and long-term dangers in that explanation and the fact that millions of people will believe it.
Add to that sweet mixture the many white nationalist groups that have long had a goal to start another American Civil War. This could be their pretext to take to the streets. There is a clear and present danger from domestic enemies willing to foment violence. That would give openings for our foreign enemies to take advantage of the situation. It is a dangerous time. It is not a game that those Republicans supporting Mr. Trump’s lies are playing. They are playing with fire. I am very concerned that real people will be injured or killed as Mr. Trump continues to incite violence in barely disguised rhetoric as he continues to live in fantasyland.
Is such a scenario inevitable? I think not. The rule of law and the Constitution can still prevail. My concern is that Mr. Trump is becoming increasingly desperate and cares not a whit about democracy or the country’s well-being. Therefore, it is well past time for Senate and House Republican leaders to state the obvious. Make clear and unambiguous statements that the system worked, it was tested in the courts, the law was upheld, and the results of the election are undisputed. Unless they do that, Mr. Trump and millions of Americans will think that they were robbed.
On Wednesday, 2,798 Americans died from Covid-19, a record at that time, which is more people than died on 11 September 2001 at the World Trade Center. On that same day, Mr. Donald J. Trump gave what he said “may be the most important speech I’ve ever made.” He did not mention anything about the pandemic. Indeed, since the election he has been mostly silent about the ongoing death toll, record rate of hospitalizations, and rampant spread of the virus except to admonish journalists not to give President-elect Biden any credit for the impending distribution of a vaccine. Only Mr. Trump should get credit.
What was so important in the speech that he gave on Wednesday? He delivered a 46 minute Facebook video (none of the news channels would carry it), produced with taxpayer money, at the White House, standing behind the seal of the President of the United States that asserted lie, after lie, after lie about the November presidential election. As always, Mr. Trump failed to provide any evidence for his outrageous claims. His was a tired reiteration of the same claims that have failed in courts across the land because there is no evidence of election fraud. Even Mr. Trump’s personal Attorney General William Barr publicly declared that there was no evidence of fraud or any other issues that would change the result of the election. And yet, he persisted. The number of lies are too many to recount here, but they focused on his view that the election was stolen from him and that it was “statistically impossible” for him to lose the election.
As always, his speech was a national embarrassment. Unpatriotic. Un-American. A direct assault on the core values of the United States. Ignorant of the Constitution. And generally despicable.
Here’s the problem. What is he going to do about it? What impact is it going to have on millions of Americans who believe him? What does it mean when he agrees with a Tweet from his disgraced, but pardoned, former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn where Mr. Flynn agrees with calls to “declare martial law,” “suspend the Constitution,” and use the United States military to carry out a “national revote”? (Sedition anyone?) What does it mean when lawmakers, Republican and Democrat, report getting more calls than they ever have received complaining about the integrity of the election?
It means we as a nation are in big trouble. Mr. Trump and his co-conspirators are doing more damage to our country than we can fully comprehend. It will take years to undo the damage and restore confidence in our voting process.
This goes way beyond letting “Trump be Trump” or pursuing recounts on close outcomes or any other “normal” efforts following an election. Simply put, Mr. Trump refuses to accept that he is a loser and will do anything, and I am afraid that I mean anything, to consolidate his power and remain in office. Many pundits predict that his whole effort to delegitimize the election will collapse after 14 December when the Electoral College officially votes. I am not convinced that we can rest easy until President-elect Biden is sworn in on 20 January as the 46th President of the United States.
Death threats have been lodged against all manner of citizens working on the election ranging from governors and state Secretaries of State down to volunteers at the polling places and counting centers. Regular citizens that took an oath and, regardless of political affiliation, have carried out those duties to the best of their ability. It is sickening to me that the president will not do the same. He also will do nothing to tone down his rhetoric and instead encourages people to move ever closer to taking the law into their own hands and installing him as a dictator. As I write those words I never thought that it could be a realistic scenario in our great country. Now my faith in my fellow Americans is shaken to the point that I cannot say with certainty that such a thing could never happen here.
I maintain only disgust and revulsion for the antics of national Republican leaders that prove daily that there is no longer a real Republican Party, only a cult of personality loyal to Donald J. Trump. Not one Republican leader in the House or Senate has yet to forcefully condemn the president’s inflammatory statements or actions. Most spread the lies themselves out of loyalty to him. No one stands up to him. The list is endless but it begins with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) and continues throughout the party and is epitomized by the Trumpist Senator from Wisconsin Ron Johnson who said, following Attorney General Barr’s statement that there was no widespread fraud during the election, that he needed “proof” of the absence of proof of fraud. (Wait. What?!) That is how far our national institutions have fallen under the governance of the worst president ever.
It is this lack of fortitude, patriotism, leadership, and a belief in the Constitution that scares me the most. Mr. Trump would still attempt to use the power of the federal government for his own benefit, but if a united Republican Party stood for their own avowed principles, then in the end he would be powerless. They refuse to do so. I suppose I should not be surprised after four long years of watching them and their submissive, obsequious deferrals to his every whim, but I am still shocked at the length they will go to keep him “happy” even as he overturns everything in his path and then sets it on fire.
Our three equal branches of government are only equal if they each assert their duties as delineated in the Constitution and configured by the Founding Fathers. So far, the courts have stood up to Mr. Trump’s cockamamy efforts to overturn the election (although why they are still allowing cases to come forward without evidence is beyond me) but the Trumpists in the House and Senate steadfastly refuse to do so.
I have no idea how this will end. Tomorrow Mr. Trump goes into a tinder box of emotions in Georgia. It will likely not be pretty. I cannot imagine Mr. Trump cooling those passions. It isn’t in him to do so. The only question will be how many matches he throws into the pyre and what actions people take as a result.
Meanwhile, we cannot forget that over 100,000 Americans are hospitalized and medical authorities fear that the spike that will follow Thanksgiving has yet to show itself. We expect to have 300,000 dead from the virus by mid-December. Unemployment and other pandemic related benefits for millions of Americans end on 26 December. We are in a national crisis and there is no leadership.
America will have a very big hole to get out of in the coming year on many levels. Let’s all start with the first rule of holes: “When you’re in one, stop digging.”