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.
For anyone that cares about the fate of our country now, or in the future, this was one busy week in Washington D.C.! While the Supreme Court was busy making our country less safe and rescinding a Constitutional right for the first time in our history (while threatening to continue to eliminate more in the future), the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol (commonly referred to as the J6 Committee) continued its hearings. Yesterday was the fifth in the series, and at least to this observer, the most compelling of them all. Which is saying something as each has been ever more riveting than the previous ones and they continue to boggle my mind with the audacity of the ex-president’s attempted coup.
While we were aware of seemingly isolated events in real time in late 2020 and early 2021, the J6 Committee is able to connect the disparate dots into a comprehensive explanation of the attempted coup following the 2020 election. What seemed to me at the time as a series of egotistical bloviating statements, coupled with wild and preposterous claims by unprofessional and clueless attorneys acting simultaneously with unscrupulous election officials and elected officials in key swing states can now be described as a preposterous, but highly coordinated, well-executed series of conspiratorial schemes to decertify the presidential election to keep the former guy in office. For the first time in our history (there seems to be a lot of that these days), a losing president refused to conduct a peaceful transfer of power to his successor and tried to retain power for himself. The ongoing hearings reveal just how close we came to losing our Republic.
Many an amateur historian wondered how the democracies in Italy and Germany could lead to dictatorships in the 1930s. We now know how it happens because we came oh so close to having it happen here. A charismatic leader creates a cult-like following and then finds people within the system that are willing to do anything to gain power for themselves in support of the would be autocrat. Based on yesterday’s sworn testimony, we now have a poster boy for those that would overthrow our way of life. His name is Jeffrey Bossert Clark, an Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ). While his is a Senate confirmed position, he is relatively low on the hierarchy to be known to the average member of the public. He is now known far and wide as the man who was willing to stage a coup within DOJ in order to help the now ex-president stay in power. (As a side note, he was the subject of a pre-dawn visit by federal agents on Wednesday executing a search warrant to confiscate electronic devices for investigation into their possible use in a criminal enterprise.)
Mr. Clark worked a behind the scenes deal with the defeated president to become the Acting Attorney General of the United States. As was abundantly clear during yesterday’s testimony, Mr. Clark had no experience, expertise, or ability to run the DOJ. What he did have was the willingness to send out a bogus, deceitful, and unscrupulous letter to officials in Georgia and other states insinuating that the DOJ was investigating election fraud. Which was a lie. (Seemingly, the best way to find a place in the ex-president’s inner circle is the ability to unabashedly and unashamedly tell bold faced lies.)
His involvement seems like the “smoking gun” demonstrating the ex-president’s intent, ability, and effort to undo the free and fair election that gave President Joe Biden the presidency by roughly 7 million votes.
The then president continued to push the actual Acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen and Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue to send out the letter mentioned above. For days and in multiple conversations they explained that they had investigated every claim of fraud or improper election activity and there was nothing that impacted the outcome of the election. It was a free and fair election. As he testified yesterday, and in Mr. Donoghue’s contemporaneous hand written notes provided to the J6 Committee, Mr. Donoghue and Mr. Rosen explained that they could not “just change the outcome of an election. It doesn’t work that way.” The now ex-president responded “I don’t expect you to do that. Just say that the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican Congressmen.“
(In yesterday’s proceeding, sworn testimony from at least two sources included the fact that Republican Representatives Mo Brooks (ALA), Matt Gaetz (FL), Louie Gohmert (TX), and Scott Perry (PA) asked for “blanket pardons” before the 2021 Inauguration. Additionally, it is believed that Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (GA) asked for one. There was also a request for blanket pardons for “every Congressman or Senator who voted to reject the Electoral College vote submissions of Arizona and Pennsylvania.” aka the Sedition Caucus. Anyone that continues to support him now, knowing what we know with who knows what other gasp inducing revelations to come, is a traitor to the ideals of our nation.)
The ex-president knew that there was no corruption, he just needed DOJ to officially corrupt itself by signing a false document to fool the American public into thinking something was amiss so that he could use his allies in the Congress to decertify Electoral College votes for Mr. Biden and throw the whole process into chaos.
It was a premeditated plan with a beginning a middle and an end to keep him in power. As the hearings continue, we now know that there were multiple avenues of corruption intended to decertify Mr. Biden’s victory and to keep the former guy in office. The insurrection on 6 January was not a random act but rather part of a larger plan to pressure Vice President Mike Pence into changing the Electoral College votes, or, should that fail, bring down the Congress and decapitate the number two and number three office holders behind the president. We shall see what else the committee brings forward, but my guess is that the intent was to create such chaos and uncertainty with the attack on the capitol as to allow the president to invoke the Insurrection Act and declare Martial Law to keep himself in power until he could rig things to keep Mr. Biden from assuming the office.
There are two things that worry me going forward.
First, unlike former president Richard Nixon, this ex-president is not going away. He continues to rile up his cult followers in the public and in elected office to pursue the Big Lie that he won the election in, as he likes to say, “a landslide.” Over one hundred successful candidates for office in this year’s Republican primaries are advocates of the Big Lie. In many ways, the events surrounding the 2020 election were a dress rehearsal for 2024. Only a few real patriots that understood and stood by their oaths to the Constitution saved the day. Next time there will be people in place that do not take their oath seriously and will be willing to do whatever it takes to put their person in office. Apparently, some people put their oath to support and defend the Constitution in the same category as checking the box for terms of service to get on a web site.
As former Republican United States Circuit Judge John Michael Luttig, a conservative’s conservative, warned in a previous J6 Committee session, that there “was a war on democracy instigated by the former president and his political party allies on January 6” when “knowing full well that he had lost the 2020 presidential election… he and they set about to overturn the election that he and they knew the former president had lost.” He then went on to say that the ex-president’s actions today create “a clear and present danger” to the future of our democracy. Words no judge states lightly.
Second, what do we do about it? The danger of indicting and sending a former president to trial, under a new president from a different political party opens an entire series of questions about what that means to the future of our country. Does it set a precedent for every succeeding administration to pursue the previous one as punishment or payback? Would we be, as Dana Milbank of the Washington Post put it, “one bunch short of becoming a banana republic?” It is scary stuff. Unprecedented in U.S. history. It could start a Civil War — taking our current cold civil war to a hot one. Unknown territory.
On the other hand, the ex-president’s actions and those of his cronies and accomplices are also unprecedented. If we believe that in these United States “no one is above the law” then why would we not prosecute him? Clearly, I am not an attorney, but to this layman’s eyes the ex-president and many of his accomplices broke the law. They tried to overthrow the government. They were willing to establish an autocracy with one-man rule. Why should that go unpunished? If ever there was a political crime in our history since THE Civil War, this it. And he is planning to do it again. He told us as much. Holy Moly! As I have mentioned in this space on many previous occasions, autocrats from Mussolini to Saddam to Trump tell us exactly what they are going to do. They do not always succeed, but they have no shame and their ego is such that they are convinced that they can get away with it. Why let a petulant bully get away with crimes just because he happens to be a former president?
Taking the emotion out of it, hard to do, at least for me, there are pros and cons whichever way DOJ decides to go. There is every possibility that however Attorney General Merrick Garland decides to pursue this, or not, it could go south and turn out very badly for our country. To me, we have too much to lose by not pursuing every legal measure available to hold the former guy accountable. It is far more dangerous to our country in the long run to turn a blind eye to the coup ring leader. After each of his impeachment trials he was emboldened to take ever more egregious actions. If he is not held accountable for an attempted coup, who knows what he is likely to try next.
I agree with Judge Luttig. He is a clear and present danger to the future of our Republic. If one believes that, then there is no question as to whether to pursue a legal remedy to hold him accountable. Do it.