So Long Democracy

The mid-term elections will be held nation-wide on 8 November this year. All 435 Representatives in the House and thirty-five Senators, along with thirty-six state governors are up for election. Many more office holders at the state and local levels will also be chosen. It seems that during every election campaign, during every election year, multiple candidates, pundits and editorials opine that this will be the most important election in our history. This time they are right.

The Brookings Institution published an analysis of the candidates on the ballot in 2022 and found that there are 345 election deniers running for office. All are Republicans. The election deniers in the analysis are running to be governors, Secretaries of State (in most states they are responsible for running and certifying elections), Attorneys General, members of Congress, and members of state legislatures. Using a scoring sheet based on the state or district, past performance and other criteria, the study’s authors then calculated the probability of an election denier winning office. They concluded that 199 (58%) had a high probability of winning their race. Seventy candidates (20%) have a medium probability of winning. The remaining seventy-six candidates (22%) have a low probability of taking office. Every state in the Union has at least one candidate that denies the results, or questions the legitimacy, of the 2020 election. Most of those likely to win, 131 to be precise, are running for the U.S House of Representatives or the Senate, including incumbents that voted against certifying President Joe Biden’s electoral win.

To my mind, this demonstrates that only one party, the Democrats, is interested in maintaining our Republic through a functioning democracy. The other party, the Republicans, are deliberately sowing distrust in our election system and in many cases advocating for violence against our political system if their candidate does not win (more on that later). Most of these candidates openly state that the only result they will accept is their own victory and the victory of those that they support — all Republicans. If a Democrat wins, it is presumed that the election was “rigged.” Not only does this perspective lead to the end of democracy as we know it, destroying all that we used to hold dear under our Constitution, it also pits Americans against Americans. Election officials are bipartisan professionals assisted by a large number of bipartisan volunteers that believe that they are contributing to the fundamental strength of our nation. The election deniers claim that those very people — just trying to do the right thing — are the enemy. And an enemy of the United States must be destroyed. Consequently, many jurisdictions around the country have a paucity of election workers. So many have been threatened through social media, phone calls, emails, letters and demonstrations in front of their homes that they have quit. We received graphic testimony during the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol (J6 Committee) hearings as to the impact that those threats have on everyday citizens. Ruby Freeman and her daughter Shaye Moss testified as to their experience in Georgia as election workers. As Ms. Freeman testified, “there is nowhere that I feel safe.” Even today, almost two years after the 2020 election, she does not go into public spaces if she can avoid it for fear that someone will recognize her and attack her. Shameful.

As I have written in this space before, the role model for many of these Trump Republicans is Viktor Orban, the Prime Minister of Hungary and his anti-immigrant, anti-democratic, Christian, white nationalist philosophy. Recently he implied that the war in Ukraine was the fault of the U.S. Other Trump Republicans go even further and admire Vladimir Putin as the model for the type of strong leader that we should have in the U.S.

As we have learned from the J6 Committee, the events leading to the attack on the Capitol was not a series of random events, or spur of the moment actions by a president who refused to accept that he was a loser. It is increasingly clear that there was a connected, concerted, planned sequence of events to keep the loser in office. The planning began as early as the summer of 2020. The attack on the Capitol was the final stage of the plan. In my view, based on the J6 hearings, the losing president wanted there to be real and extreme violence at the Capitol, including gunfire, serious injuries and deaths. As he wanted to do multiple times previously, he would then invoke the Insurrection Act, declare martial law, and declare that he must stay in office to restore order across the country. In other words, a coup via violent means. He tried unsuccessfully to pull off a coup through fake electors, law suits and Congressional malfeasance by the Sedition Caucus vote to not recognize the Electoral College results. All failed. Violence was the final answer. I sincerely believe that if he did not actively wish the death or capture of his Vice President, he would not have minded if it had happened. Not only was he genuinely angry at Mike Pence, I think that if he was harmed or killed, then the outgoing president had a spectacular reason to declare martial law.

These are the 345 people that are running for office. Some will be directly in charge of carrying out the elections, deciding which votes count, and certifying the results. They all support the former president’s Big Lie that the election was stolen and that he should be restored to office. They all declare that the only legitimate outcome of any election is that their candidate wins. It isn’t just crazy anymore. It is real. There is a nation-wide effort underway to rewrite the rules of our democracy to leave only one party in power. Presumably forever.

This upcoming election is about one thing only — the survival of our Republic as we know it. On the campaign trail most of the discussion is about inflation, gas prices, immigration, abortion and other issues. Those are real problems. They need to be addressed. However, in the current context they are a smoke screen to allow Trump Republican candidates to talk about anything but the real goal. If you listen carefully, they have little to no policies or solutions to alleviate those problems. There are slogans, there are attempts to “own the libs” and there are other non-consequential statements, but no substantive proposals. When asked by reporters as to what Republicans would do should they win back Congress, here is what the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said about the Republican platform for 2022, and I quote, “That’s a very good question. And I’ll let you know when we take it back.” Note that the 2020 Republican platform did not exist. It merely stated in a very few words that they would do whatever Trump wanted. No policies. No agenda.

Here is what to expect next year if the Trump Republicans win the House of Representatives — a large number of Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) types running the show. You may remember her as the far right conspiracy monger that loves the limelight by owning the libs. She also is an advocate of the Great Replacement Theory whereby immigrants (only the black and brown immigrants) are sent to the U.S. by Democrats to replace “good Americans” (white Americans) in their jobs, schools, and in the voting booth (never mind that you need to be a U.S. citizen to vote). Among other things. Think she is a whack job on the fringe of politics that only crazies listen to? Think again. In the new Congress, she will be in the main stream of her party along with all the election deniers and far right wing advocates ready to change the way that the U.S. government acts domestically and internationally. Think I am exaggerating? Take a look at the news video clips and photographs where the-wants-to-be-Speaker-of-the-House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is announcing some new effort on behalf of the Republican caucus. Standing over his right shoulder, or sitting next to him, more times than not, is Marjorie Taylor Greene. She would not be there if she was not a player in the new extremist Republican party. Or let her tell you herself as she told a reporter for the New York Times. Speaking of Minority Leader McCarthy she said, “I think that to be the best Speaker of the House, and to please the base, he’s going to give me a lot of power and a lot of leeway. And if he doesn’t, they’re going to be very unhappy about it. I think that’s the best way to read that. And that’s not in anyway a threat at all. I just think that’s the reality.” Which House Committee do you think she wants? Oversight? Judiciary? Appropriations? Q-anon follower Marjorie Taylor Greene as a Committee Chair for any committee in Congress is scary all unto itself. And she will only be one of many.

(Speaking of Q-anon, Trump now plays the unofficial anthem of Q believers at the end of his rallies.)

There is only one way to combat this direct attack on democracy. That is to continue to repeat the facts over and over and over again. As Joe Friday would say on the old Dragnet program, “just the facts, ma’am.” Clearly, many people will not accept the facts. Ever. Especially as they are bombarded with lies, propaganda and conspiracies. But we have to try. These new politicians have learned one lesson well from the losing president. Lie, lie, lie. Never apologize. Double down if caught. It worked for him and it appears that it works for many of his approved candidates. If there is any phrase that best sums up the current crop of Trump Republicans it is “I don’t care.” They don’t care if they lie. They don’t care if they are doing great harm to our country. They don’t care if people are suffering and will continue to suffer as the new leaders put power and making money over the needs of our citizens. They just don’t care about anything, period. Except winning the election so that they can force themselves on the rest of us.

Many of the election results are going to be very tight. If only a handful of voters learn the truth and vote against the far right candidates, it could turn an election. In any case, we have to try. Otherwise, it is so long democracy. It was nice while it lasted.

Game On!

But where are the clowns?
Quick, send in the clowns.
Don’t bother, they’re here.

Stephen Sondheim — “Send in the Clowns”

It is unclear what to make of Monday’s Iowa caucus results.  Analysts and pundits are busy parsing it in many directions.  So far I have heard that Hillary Clinton’s win was really a loss, Marco Rubio’s third place finish was a win, Bernie Sanders pulled out the biggest upset, Ted Cruz really knew how to do “retail politics” and Donald Trump is not unstoppable.  I suppose all of that means we can make of the results whatever we wish.

There are a few things that are apparent.  Projections, pundits and potential are all mostly in the past now that real people are voting.  The game is on.  On to New Hampshire.  There is no clear front-runner in either party even though various candidates would like to think that they are the inevitable nominee for their respective parties.

Perhaps we also know (or hope) that the reality show atmosphere of the Republican debates will be a thing of the past. Perhaps the clown show is finally over.  (Time out:  You may remember that Donald Trump boycotted last week’s debate on Fox News.  We will never know if that hurt him or helped him — many argue the latter because he would be asked some difficult questions.  Ever the entrepeneur Mr. Trump opined that they should pay him for his appearance as he was such a boon to ratings for the network, and felt that the questions asked him were “unfair” — even as Fox News claims it is the only network that is “fair and balanced.”  If I were a cynical conspiracy theorist, I would opine that it was actually a back room deal between Fox and Mr. Trump to boost ratings for each of them by creating a mock feud.  But I must stop myself from slipping into the slime that is unworthy of the citizens of our great country.)  Perhaps the next debates will be more substantive, but in truth, without Mr. Trump there, the last Republican debate was the most policy driven one they have held thus far.

There are a few things to keep in mind about the “winning and losing” that often get lost.  In no particular order these include:

  • Caucus goers in Iowa are not representative of the voters nationally.  For both Democrats and Republicans they tend to skew farther to the edges of their respective parties.  The last two winners of the Republican caucuses were former Governor Mike Huckabee and former Senator Rick Santorum.  Neither were much of a factor in later primaries.
  • The “winner” in the Republican caucus was Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) who got 8 delegates. In second place Mr. Donald Trump (R-Manhattan) got 7 and in third place Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) got 7 delegates.  Out of 1,237 needed to gain the nomination.  (For the record, Dr. Ben Carson (R-Johns Hopkins) got 3 and Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina, and John Kasich each got one.  Chris Christie got zero, along with Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, “other” and Jim Gilmore — “other” actually got more votes than Jim Gilmore.)  The “winner” got about six tenths of one percent — less than one percent — of the total needed for the nomination.
  • The “winner” for the Democrats, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton got 23 delegates and the runner-up, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) got 21.  Former governor Martin O’Malley (D-MD) got no delegates but he did finish ahead of “other” and “uncommitted” in the voting.  Out of 2,382 delegates needed to get the nomination, the “winner” got about one percent of the total needed.

(Time out number two:  Out of the roughly 314 million citizens of the United States, these fifteen people are the best our nation has to offer?  No offense to any one of the candidates that have put themselves out there to run (well, maybe offense to two or three of them), but whoever ends up being the two nominees do not to me look like the best that we can do.)

One thing is clear, the economy of Iowa benefits from hosting the first test of the candidates among the voters.  I am not so sure the rest of us get much benefit from it.

The real impact of the caucus is the psychological aspects of winning or losing.  Especially this year. Given the number and variety of candidates running, many voters are undecided and more importantly to the candidates, many major donors have been sitting out this cycle waiting to see who is a viable candidate with a shot at winning, you know, the real election.  Additionally, some candidates found out that they have no realistic shot.  (Farewell Governor Huckabee, Governor O’Malley, and Senator Paul. All “suspended” their campaigns after Iowa.)

The rules of the Iowa caucus, for both Democrats and Republicans are a bit arcane.  I won’t go into them here, but even as one may argue that Iowa does not represent the country as a whole with respect to race, ethnicity, socio-economic factors, etc. it is also difficult to participate in the caucus. None-the-less, it is what it is and it does provide a chance to start narrowing the field.

Up next, New Hampshire.  While that state also may not reflect the make up of the rest of the population of this great nation, at least the good citizens of the Granite State cast a real ballot at a polling booth. What makes New Hampshire interesting is that independents can vote in either the Republican or the Democrat primary (but not both).  Expect more Republican candidates to suspend their campaigns after New Hampshire, especially those that only paid lip service to the Iowa caucus and put most of their effort into New Hampshire and still make a poor showing.

That said, I am not in the prognosticating business so I will not venture a guess as to who decides to retire from the field. I also am sure that we will still have a large field for a few more weeks.  At a minimum, however, it should start to reveal who has a realistic shot at being their party’s nominee.

Perhaps by early March, we can send out the clowns.