At a time when we should be looking ahead to the good times coming in 2021, we find that there is significant danger in the coming weeks as Donald J. Trump continues to act like a mob boss and actively work to overturn the results of the election that he lost by over seven million votes. The very foundation of our democracy is under continuing attack as the president, members of the Senate and the House and scores of white nationalists, Q-Anon conspiracists and others attempt to overthrow the duly elected incoming president and vice-president. This is the most dangerous attack on our national values and core principles since at least 1860.
In the last twenty-four hours we experienced the spectacle of Mr. Trump calling the Secretary of State of Georgia to tell him to “find” enough votes to give the state’s electors to him. As reported in the Washington Post, and captured on audio given to the reporters, he wailed, threatened, whined and cajoled the Georgia officials for over an hour. The president wants them to “reexamine” the results, “with people that want to find answers, not people who don’t want to find answers.” In other words, fabricate new results. He repeatedly complained that “there’s no way I lost Georgia. There’s no way. We won by hundreds of thousands of votes.” In fact, he lost by 11,779. There were three recounts. The state legislature certified the vote. The Republican governor certified it.
Mr. Trump’s efforts could be criminal. They certainly are immoral and unethical. But then what do we expect from the worst president ever that will leave the White House as an impeached one-term president?
Meanwhile in the Congress, the Sedition Caucus of about 140 Trumpist Representatives and twelve Trumpist Senators will object to the certification of the Electoral College votes. As explained by Senator Josh Hawley (MO), he wants the allegations of fraud in Pennsylvania investigated. He says he owes it to the 74 million voters for Mr. Trump who “are not going to shut up” and must have their concerns addressed. Which, of course, ignores the 81 million people that voted for Mr. Biden that he wants to disenfranchise. Equally despicable is the effort led by the Chief Sedition Officer of the group Senator Ted Cruz (TX). He wanted to argue a case against certifying the election in the Supreme Court and is now organizing his fellow rebels without a cause to try and create a special commission to look into the “unprecedented allegations of election fraud, violations, and lax enforcement of election law and other voting irregularities.” He argues that the commission will “significantly enhance the legitimacy of whoever becomes our next president.” Nice. Note that their plan, as with all of their other “facts” are merely allegations. No one has produced any evidence of any activity that would change the results of the election. NONE. The Trump campaign lost over 60 cases in appearances before judges in multiple states including many judges that were appointed by Mr. Trump. Twice the Supreme Court turned them away. States conducted as many as three recounts with no findings of any significant issues. The person from the Department of Homeland Security, in charge of making sure our elections were secure, appointed by Mr. Trump, said that this was the most secure election in our history. Attorney General William Barr, appointed by Mr. Trump and who acted like his personal attorney, said that there was no fraud. There is no “whoever becomes our president” because only one person won the election and the other one is going to Florida.
What we really have, is a significant group of elected officials that apparently believe that if their candidate did not win, then we should disenfranchise millions of Americans and overturn the election. We have elected officials that put loyalty to the leader of a cult above the oath that they swore to the Constitution. That is the bottom line. Think about that. They are more loyal to one man than to our country. That man demands loyalty and they cave like a child’s cardboard box in a hurricane. Thank goodness there are still some patriots in the president’s party that recognize that we are a nation of laws and who will not go along with the coup.
I cannot emphasize enough how abominable their actions are. This is a full-on attempt to undermine our democracy. Period. Yes, they are making money off of this. Yes, they think that this will help them get re-elected. Yes, they are playing to the Trump base. It is still an attempt to overturn a free and fair election.
Additional danger comes from Mr. Trump’s detestable effort to stir up trouble in Washington D.C. He is calling for his supporters to come to a “wild protest” on 6 January, the same day that Congress is required to open the official Electoral College votes to certify the election. On Friday another member of the Sedition Caucus lost yet another attempt in court to overturn the election and called for “violence in the streets” to block Mr. Biden from becoming president. I trust that the FBI will be visiting Congressman Louie Gohmert (TX). Groups are calling for turning the national mall into “an armed camp.” The Proud Boys and other extreme white nationalist groups claim that they will have thousands of members on the streets. Some have threatened to keep members of Congress from getting to the capitol building to vote. It will be a dangerous time.
We have four years until the next presidential election. A serious bipartisan effort is needed to review every aspect of our system of voting from how we vote, to how we train poll workers, to reviewing whether a ranking system is a better way to elect our officials to doing away with the Electoral College or at least standardizing the way electors are chosen. We certainly need to close legal loopholes that allow state legislatures or the Congress to change the expressed will of the voters. It is a near miss this time. We cannot be sanguine that all will go well in the future.
I look forward to the vote on Wednesday, however many hours it may be delayed by objections or protesters or any other reason. Mr. Biden will be president on 20 January. History will record the names of those that sought to overthrow a duly elected president of the United States and install an avowed autocrat. To me, their actions are seditious if not treasonous. I will leave it to attorneys and constitutional scholars to sort that out. The bottom line is that they want to destroy our country by destroying our right to vote.
The best news for the coming year is that as of 21 January, we don’t have to give a damn about anything the orange menace has to say.
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.”
Donald J. Trump is conducting a disturbing and dangerous assault on the very foundation of our democratic republic. Such an assault began well before the election and continues unabated weeks after Election Day. How or when it stops we may not know until 20 January when Joseph R. Biden Jr. is sworn in as the 46th President of the United States. Mr. Trump told us what he was going to do and, for once, was true to his word. He is undertaking the most blatant exercise of raw power to overturn a presidential election in our history.
As alarming as Mr. Trump’s efforts to undo an election that he lost by nearly 6 million votes may be, more alarming is the fact that the majority of Republican Senators support his efforts, some by actively engaging in attempted voter disenfranchisement — I’m looking at you Lindsey Graham — and others by their continued silence while Mr. Trump and his cronies blatantly attempt to overturn a fair and fraud free election. The Republican Party is dead and now they have put the last nail in the coffin.
That Mr. Trump lost is a great thing for our country. As his actions continue to show, should he have won, and absent a Senate that is willing to confront him, he would have run roughshod over every Constitutional boundary that has protected our country for over two hundred years. As it is, his current actions are those of a despot. The very foundation of our country is under assault by this president as he tries to convince us that he “won in a landslide.” And national level Republican politicians are letting him try.
Thankfully, there are still elected officials, Republican and Democrat, at state and local levels that have a firm grasp on reality and retain the backbone to do their job faithfully, fully and in keeping with the oath that they took to uphold the laws and Constitution of the United States, regardless of pressure from the President of the United States.
None-the-less we now know how fragile our democracy really is. Mr. Trump and his co-conspirators are incompetent. They cannot pull it off. But, they have put forth a roadmap that a more competent administration could follow in the future to steal an election. It is imperative that the Congress work to close the loopholes in our election process to preclude any future attempts to overturn a fair election.
The effort hit an all time high of danger and of farce yesterday during a press conference headed by a sweating, hair dye dripping, Rudy Giuliani at the Republican National Committee Headquarters. After every legal attempt to halt vote counting or to throw out votes was dismissed in court for lack of evidence (currently, the Trump campaign is zero for thirty) they resorted to wild claims invoking everything from Venezuela to Cuba to a mysterious national conspiracy to change votes electronically from Mr. Trump to Mr. Biden. None of the claims were supported by any facts whatsoever. Mr. Giuliani stated that he could not share the evidence because it was classified, but that it would be produced at a later time.
Furthermore, the Trump campaign’s efforts are racist, pure and simple. The challenges and conspiracy theories apparently are only relevant to certain cities such as Detroit, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Atlanta and Las Vegas. In each case they are focused on precincts and counties that are predominately Black or Latino. This is a blatant attempt to disenfranchise minority voters.
Remember that Mr. Trump earlier this week “terminated” Christopher Krebs — his own appointee — who was responsible for the country’s cyber security and for overseeing the integrity of the voting process. He was fired for doing the unthinkable. He told the truth. After Election Day Mr. Krebs declared “the November 3rd election was the most secure in American history. There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes or was in any way compromised.” He did his job. In this administration that is grounds for being fired. Additionally, his deputy was forced to resign and as is his habit, Mr. Trump had a more “loyal” appointee assigned to the job.
In a Tweet, Mr. Krebs called Mr. Giuliani’s performance yesterday “the most dangerous 1 hr 45 minutes of television in American history. And possibly the craziest.” He is right. What Mr. Trump is attempting through his surrogate Mr. Giuliani is un-American and a grave threat to our democracy.
Today Mr. Trump is inviting members of the Republican controlled Michigan legislature to the White House in an attempt to get them to interfere in the Electoral College process. This seems to be the new strategy. Since they have failed at the ballot box, in the courts, and everywhere else, they think that they can mess with the Electoral College, or delay its vote, or something (I’m not sure they know) in order to throw the election into the Congress where they think that they can win. They lost the popular vote by 6 million votes. They lost the Electoral College count by 74 votes. They are trying to overturn the will of the people with unfounded, unproven, and ridiculous claims as if we do have an autocrat in charge of our government.
This course of events goes beyond letting “Trump be Trump” or giving him time to assimilate the fact that he is a loser or any other psychological double talk that Republicans are putting forth about his behavior. This is simply a case of an autocrat trying to steal an election by claiming that no, really, the other guy stole it.
Unfortunately, the longer this goes on the number of people that believe his unfounded claims will grow. What happens then is impossible to predict, but I fear that the nut cases in our great land will feel that they somehow have to rectify the situation and force the country to accept that Mr. Trump really won.
Meanwhile, Mr. Trump sits whining in the White House, only leaving to play golf, while the Covid-19 pandemic grows into a massive crisis. The situation now is the greatest threat to our well-being since it began in February. The number of deaths is fourth on the list of our country’s greatest losses of life behind the Civil War, the Second World War and the 1918 flu pandemic. On the current trajectory it could move up the list to be the second worst in our history. Nothing from Mr. Trump except to claim that he is responsible for the vaccine that will soon be in production. No effort to put forth economic relief for the millions struggling to make ends meet. No effort to keep the government from shutting down on 11 December because there is no bill to provide the money to keep it functioning. Crises everywhere and Mr. Trump is putting all of his energy into convincing people that he really won the election and therefore will overturn the certified results.
From the vast majority of the members of the Republican Senate? Crickets.
We are in danger. Serious danger. Our enemies foreign and domestic see that we are in turmoil. They see that our democracy is fragile and not functioning as it should. They see that we have a distracted, weak president that is only interested in taking money from his supporters and amassing power. The next 60 days will be fraught with ever greater threats as we fail to address that which is staring us in the face and we see an increasingly unhinged president willing to do anything to stay in office.
I am out of the prediction business. I will only say that it would not surprise me that Mr. Trump never concedes, never allows a transition, and does everything in his power to turn over a domestic and international situation that will undermine any policies Mr. Biden hoped to address during his presidency. For at least his first year, Mr. Biden simply will be too busy putting out the fires that Mr. Trump set on his way out.
The only thing that I am sure of is that Mr. Biden will be sworn in at noon on 20 January 2021 and that millions of people will believe that he stole the election away from Mr. Trump.
Thank God Trump only had one term.
The country is one week away from an election that likely will come down to the wire. If (when?) the Democrats win the White House and Senate and maintain their majority in the House, there will be several key issues that need immediate intention and others that may fundamentally change our system of government.
Of immediate concern is the ongoing pandemic. The Trump Administration threw in the towel and surrendered to the inevitable spread of Covid-19. Indeed, the administration surrendered back in March when the president refused to take responsibility for any actions to mitigate the spread of the disease. With his super-spreader events held daily all around the country, we are wasting our time expecting him to do anything positive to reduce the death toll that is expected to approach 400,000 dead Americans by Inauguration Day. In my view, win or lose, Mr. Trump will do nothing in the coming months to change the course of the disease.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) adjourned the Senate yesterday without addressing the economic impact of the pandemic. Several relief bills, starting last May, passed the House but Mr. McConnell refused to take them up in the Senate. Likely, he failed to do his job for two reasons. First, there was widespread disagreement within his caucus as to whether or not to spend more money. Mr. McConnell did not want to put any of his Senators in a politically precarious position by forcing them to vote one way or another on helping the average working person in the United States. Second, Mr. McConnell probably sees the writing on the wall that Mr. Trump will not be re-elected. Senator McConnell will do all in his power to make life miserable for a President Biden, including trying to keep the economy struggling so that Mr. Biden cannot take credit for succeeding where the current ruling party failed.
The pandemic will be the first and most important issue for a Biden Administration to address. Economic relief will be the first order of business for a Democratic Congress. Those plans are ready for implementation as soon as the new president and Congress are sworn in. Only time will tell if they are effective, but it seems that any attempt to improve the situation is better than none. We cannot sit around and wait for a vaccine or for effective therapies to help patients in the hospital. Those are important, but don’t yet exist. The real issue is what can be done now to stop the spread of the disease. We already know that masks, social distancing and good hygiene go a long way. For some misguided reason, those successful strategies have become politicized by Mr. Trump. It will take time, and a coordinated effort to overcome that mind set and to restore what has been lost over the last seven months.
Longer term, a Democratic administration and Congress have fundamental issues to address as to how government works. Legislation to institutionalize norms that have been respected in the past but ignored over the last few years are necessary. Trust in the character of the president is a charming relic of the past that we now know is too dangerous. Put it into law.
In addition, there are three dilemmas that Democrats will face. These are whether to:
- Investigate and prosecute any crimes committed by the president and/or members of his administration.
- End the filibuster in the Senate.
- Change the number of Justices on the Supreme Court.
Revenge and retribution will be on many minds come January. That feeling will not only color the views of politicians in Washington but also those of many of the citizens that voted them into office. The current administration and their enablers in the Senate ran roughshod over all of the norms and courtesies that traditionally applied in the government and especially in the Senate. Look no further than the court packing that occurred with the refusal to take up President Obama’s nominee to the Court eight months before an election, and the subsequent rush job to put Mr. Trump’s nominee on the Court eight days before Election Day after nearly 60 million Americans had already voted.
Constitutionally, the Republicans were well within their power to do both of those deeds, no matter how much it reeks of hypocrisy. It was legal. However, one of my guiding principles has been that just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should. In my view, that idea should apply to the Democrats as well.
With that in mind, let’s look at the three dilemmas facing a Democratic government.
Investigate and Prosecute. What to do about Mr. Donald J. Trump who has abused just about every principle in the book and enriched himself and his family throughout his term? My nuanced answer is “it depends.” There is a precedent. Following President Nixon’s resignation, President Ford pardoned him of all crimes. The argument was that the country had already been through very rough times so do not protract it. Move on and start over. As President Ford said “our long national nightmare is over.”
I am not sure that we can do that with Mr. Trump. No president can be prosecuted for bad policy, the voters take care of that. However, if evidence comes to light that Mr. Trump was knowingly aiding and abetting a foreign adversary, for example, then an investigation and possible prosecution are very necessary. We now know that no counter-intelligence or national security investigation was ever conducted to look into Mr. Trump’s activities. The Mueller Investigation did not touch on those issues. The impeachment process did not look into that either.
We have also learned that federal and New York state District Attorneys are looking into Mr. Trump’s finances and possible crimes (like racketeering) prior to his entering office — and maybe while in office.
I say to let the chips fall where they may. If Mr. Biden is president he should have absolutely no involvement in any investigation or prosecution of Mr. Trump or his associates. Let the District Attorneys finish their investigations and decide whether or not to prosecute. This will be difficult to do as many in this country will readily assume that such action is merely one more thing on the list of “persecutions” Mr. Trump has “endured.” I think that in the current era it is necessary to show that no one is above the law if they knowingly commit crimes. Even if Mr. Trump is pardoned (there are multiple scenarios that might apply to make that happen) it would only apply to federal laws. State laws fall under a different jurisdiction and can only be pardoned by the respective governors. Just follow the money. If it leads to Mr. Trump, his children, any of his associates or Trump, Inc. just play it straight as the justice system would pursue any other citizen. If there is nothing there, then so be it.
End the Filibuster. The Senate was designed to be different than the House of Representatives. Until just over one hundred years ago with the passage of the 17th Amendment, Senators were not directly elected by the people. They were separate from the rabble that elects the House (also why we have an Electoral College) and therefore would be more deliberate, thoughtful and statesmanlike. One of the great Senate rules that helped to promote that atmosphere and to provide an opportunity for compromise is the filibuster. While one Senator could theoretically hold up the works, in practice it often resulted in compromises in order to get the two-thirds (later changed to 60) votes required to move legislation and Senate confirmed nominees.
There are now calls to end the filibuster. Such calls are nothing new, especially when one party or the other feels shut out or stymied in moving their projects forward. Then Minority Leader McConnell used the filibuster to stop the confirmation of federal judges under President Obama, leading then Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to go “nuclear” and change the Senate rules to require only a simple majority to confirm federal judges. Anticipating President Trump’s Supreme Court nominees, now Majority Leader McConnell knew that his narrow majority would not likely be able to get Supreme Court nominees confirmed following his dirty trick blocking Merrick Garland from the Court, so he changed the rules to only require a simple majority for confirmation of Supreme Court Justices. Both actions were huge mistakes.
Without the filibuster, the Senate becomes a small House of Representatives. The majority can ram through any legislation they want on a simple majority. The Senate is already way too partisan, ending the filibuster will only make it more so. There will be no need to compromise on anything.
The Democrats know that Mr. McConnell will do anything in his power to move his agenda. They run the risk of him, or another Republican Majority Leader, doing away with the filibuster in the future. It is a risk they should take. There can be little to no progress in regaining civility in government and consequently in the country if all of the rules go out the window and only pure partisan politics is in play. The Senate will cease to be the body it was envisioned to be if the rules change to favor only one party.
Change the Number of Justices. Likewise, I think the same way about the Supreme Court. The number of Justices is determined by law, not by the Constitution and can be changed. It can reasonably be argued that the Republicans already packed the federal justice system. When in the majority they blocked nearly every nominee of President Obama to every federal court. They stopped the nomination of Judge Garland. It could be reasonably argued that two of the three seats filled by Mr. Trump were stolen seats. Regardless, I think it a mistake to add three or more (as has been suggested) Justices to create a more “balanced” judiciary. Follow the current rules and make them work. The Democrats got outmaneuvered by Mr. McConnell. He plays hard ball and will use every trick in the book to get what he wants. Use the rules to get to where the country needs to be, but do not change them for partisan reasons.
The political partisan vibe needs to change. Mr. Trump has been many things including the worst president ever. He also exacerbated the divisions in our country for his own egomaniacal and profit making reasons. Let’s change that atmosphere. Besides, if the Republicans refuse to go along and restore a measure of compromise, then you can change the rules.
There is of course another remedy. That is through legislation. Pass laws to institutionalize the norms of government that we expect. Pass laws that provide health care that can pass review by the courts, for example, should the Affordable Care Act be overturned. Pass a law explicitly institutionalizing same sex marriage. And so forth. Use the existing rules through legislation to overcome any interpretation made by nine citizens.
I look forward to the new era that will dawn at noon on 20 January 2021. We all need to work together to move out from under the pandemic — to me a symbol of all that is wrong with the current administration. When we defeat the virus through national cooperation and neighbor helping neighbor, let’s keep that spirit and apply it to our political discourse.
As the cliché goes, history often repeats itself. 1852 marked the effective end of the Whig Party, a political party that had elected four presidents and that generally favored the supremacy of Congress over the presidency, based on the Constitution. It evolved for a while into the Know Nothing Party which was virulently anti-immigrant, especially against Catholic immigrants. Eventually, mostly along regional lines over the issue of slavery, and forged by the Civil War, the modern Republican and Democrat parties emerged.
I am a strong believer in the two-party system. In my lifetime, our country at times has veered right of center and left of center, depending on the election of one party over the other. But I believe that the majority of Americans are moderate and centrist, with tendencies that cause them to lean left or right at various times over differing issues, but in the end, we mostly want to stay in the middle of the road. We stay there without careening blindly over the cliff thanks to our two-party system. It is self-correcting as one party or the other pulls its opponent back towards the middle when things start to get too wacky. I am concerned that we are about to lose that balanced system as it appears to me that the Republican Party is about to self-destruct, much like the Whigs in the mid-19th century, over politicians and policies that no longer fit the main stream. The reasons are many.
Tomorrow is Super Tuesday and by Wednesday morning we may wake up to the inevitability of Mr. Donald Trump (R-Manhattan) as the presumptive Republican nominee for president. There is no need for me to list the many insults he has thrown at various groups around the country or to point out that he has no literate policy in any area of significance to this country other than to build a wall. His nomination will create a dilemma for many main stream Republicans. Support their nominee, chosen by the people and for the people, or not? Whether or not individual voters continue to support him in the general election, he will have destroyed the Republican Party as we know it. Even a cursory look at his statements (it is difficult to call them policies) indicate that he is all over the map on defense, foreign policy, healthcare, taxes, understanding the Constitution, trade, the economy and just about everything else. Few of his pronouncements match long-standing Republican policies. Should he be elected, I am not sure how the rest of the Republican Party will align with his ideas, whether or not the Republicans continue to control both the House and the Senate. (It may be hard for Republicans to hold onto the Senate with Mr. Trump at the top of their ticket.) Those that think Mr. Trump will be better than any Democrat may be in for a rude awakening. Regardless, under Mr. Trump, the Republican Party will not continue to exist as we know it today.
Couple the thought of Mr. Trump as president (gasp!) with current events in the House and Senate. In the House of Representatives, the compromise budget hammered out as former House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was being driven out of the Congress by his own party is now in jeopardy. The bipartisan agreement on the budget was to make 2016 non-controversial, get the Congress back to the business of running the country, and allow for other issues to get addressed in “regular order.” In the last few days, however, the Republican Freedom Caucus, a group of about 40 Tea Party Representatives that caused the revolt that resulted in the government shut down in 2013, are now threatening to do the same thing again this year. They do not plan to follow the budget agreement that all sides thought was in place. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) is going to have his hands full dealing with this rebellion, just as Speaker Boehner did before him. In many ways it is a battle within the Congress, among Republicans, as to the future of their party.
In the Senate, not much is getting accomplished. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) seems intent on shutting the government down through inaction. So far, nothing of substance that President Obama put forward has been, or apparently will be, considered. Senator McConnell and his fellow Republicans have moved from just disagreeing with or opposing the president’s policies, to being down right insulting. There are numerous examples as to how they are doing this to a “lame duck” president (for the record, an elected official is a lame duck only after an election where their replacement has been duly elected — not the full last year in office), but let me just throw out a few.
Earlier this month, the president sent his budget plan for fiscal year 2017 to the Congress. Before it officially arrived in the House and Senate, the Republican leadership rejected it in total. Their prerogative of course, but one would think that they should actually take a look at it before rejecting it. However, that was not sufficient in their view. For the first time in 41 years, the Congress did not even provide the courtesy of inviting the budget director to testify before Congress about what was in the plan. The Republican chairs of the respective budget committees announced before the budget was released that they would not invite the director to testify because they were not interested in knowing anything about what was in it.
Another example can be found in the video released last week by Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) where he makes a show of taking President Obama’s plan to close down the prison at Guantanamo Bay Cuba and wadding it up into a ball and shooting it into the trash can without reading it. One may disagree about the efficacy of closing the prison, but why make it into an insult? (See: Trump, Donald.)
Biggest in the news, and the one that most worries me, is the refusal of the Senate leadership to abide any nomination by the president to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court following the untimely passing of Justice Antonin Scalia. No nominee is named — but they already promise to refuse to provide even the most basic of traditional American political processes and will not meet with the nominee. I have seen the tapes of then Senator Barack Obama (D-Illinois) and then Senator Joe Biden (D-Delaware) saying during Republican presidential administrations that the president should not be allowed to nominate a justice in their last year as president. Two things come to mind. We seem to be on a giant national play ground so let me use a grade school admonition: two wrongs don’t make a right. More importantly, Senator Obama and Senator Biden never actually stopped a nominee from coming before the Senate. They may have voted against some, but they did not stop them and they certainly did not prevent the process from playing out as it should. If Republicans do not like the nominee, fine. Don’t vote for the person. But to be rude and insulting by refusing to meet with and provide due consideration is ridiculous. It is their job — do it. It is also bad politics. Think about it.
The country is angry and about to nominate Donald Trump as a major party nominee. Much of that anger is directed at the Senate and House for not doing their jobs. It seems that strategically and tactically Senator McConnell is off base. No Republican needs to vote for any nominee (although if qualified, they should follow American tradition and do so) but by not allowing any nominee to be vetted in the Senate, they play right into the Democrat’s hands. Talk about rallying the Democrat’s base — this will do it and probably lead to some incumbent Republican Senators losing their re-election campaigns. Follow the process, use the system to their advantage, keep the seat vacant but do it by following the rules. I am not sure what he is thinking unless he is afraid that some Republicans might actually vote for the president’s nominee if that person is qualified. What a tragedy that would be.
Senator McConnell’s thinking is also short-sighted. To satisfy the base now, he is willing to take a chance on the future. President Obama would likely nominate a moderate to the Supreme Court this year because he knows that is the only way his nominee has any chance at all to be confirmed. What kind of nominee will a President Trump put forward? Does Senator McConnell think that a President Clinton will put up a nominee more to his liking? Hardly. (Fantasy: President Clinton nominates Barack Obama for the empty Supreme Court seat. Now that would be something to behold.) If Senator McConnell wants to see a more moderate nominee, his best chance is now, not after the election. Especially as his argument is that “the people” should have their say — well they will, and both presumptive presidential nominees are surely likely to put forward someone less palatable to the Senate.
(History lesson: Chief Justice John Marshall, perhaps one of the greatest to sit in that chair, was nominated by John Adams in late January 1801 — months after the election of Thomas Jefferson as president. The Senate confirmed him and he took the bench on the 4th of February, one month before President Adams left office. President Jefferson accepted the appointment because the Constitution gives the president and the Senate the power to appoint members of the court. Nothing in the Constitution says anything about “lame ducks” which in this case, both the president and some members of the Senate most certainly were. These are the “Founding Fathers” that so many now refer to as the justification for their actions. These Founding Fathers knew the Constitution, were certainly “originalists,” and guess what?)
Why do I think this is important to Republicans and that they should change their approach? Because taken together, and in conjunction with other similar events and the mood of the nation, the soul of the party is at risk. I worry that the back lash, and continued infighting within the party, will destroy or at least splinter the current Republican Party. Whether that new political entity will be better or worse than what exists now, I certainly cannot say. However, I am concerned about another Know Nothing Party emerging, for however short of a time. Without two strong mainstream political parties, both vibrant and reflecting the core values of our nation, we will lose our way in the middle of the road and careen recklessly off of it and over a cliff.