You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That’s the signpost up ahead – your next stop, the Trumpian Zone! — with apologies to Rod Serling
It seems as if we are in one of the spookiest and weirdest episodes of the Twilight Zone. It is almost as if we are experiencing an out-of-body experience as our democracy is under attack to a degree that we have not seen since the Civil War. We are in a place where facts don’t matter and the Constitution is ignored. Apparently, laws do not apply to those in pursuit of autocratic goals. We are in the zone where the federal and state governments exist only to serve one man — a zone most of us would never have imagined to be possible. Hyperbole? No. In fact, I think most Americans do not understand how precarious our democracy is and that it is under a full frontal assault. An ongoing coup attempt is underway, instigated by the then president about a year ago with claims that he could only lose if the election was rigged and that has grown and continued to the present day. Sadly, one of the two major political parties in our country is a full-on participant in the attempt to destroy our democracy — either acquiescing to the effort or actively enabling it.
These are the facts, not opinions. Over time, more and more revelations have uncovered the full extent of the ex-president’s efforts to overturn the election to remain as president illegally, or to be a dictator, depending on one’s view of an individual seizing power for his own purposes.
Here are some of the efforts that we know about so far:
- In December 2020 Michael Flynn, the disgraced one time National Security Adviser and a retired Lt. General in the United States Army, goes on the cable network Newsmax to argue that the president could deploy the military to confiscate voting machines and then rerun the election. The next day, the president invites him to the Oval Office to discuss Mr. Flynn’s plan and to review the possibility of deploying the military to impose martial law.
- The president pressured officials in key states to “find” more votes and encouraged lawmakers in state legislatures to overturn the election results in their states and replace the Electors voting for Mr. Biden with a slate that would vote for him instead.
- The president and his Chief of Staff Mark Meadows pressured the Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to find enough votes to give him the victory and hinted that Mr. Raffensperger could be criminally prosecuted if he did not — a phone call now under investigation for violating the law. Additionally, he forced the U.S. Attorney in Atlanta to resign because he was not working hard enough to uncover “fraud” and to negate the Georgia election results.
- The president directed his Chief of Staff and other aides to pressure the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate bogus and hare-brained ideas claiming election fraud including one that “proved” Italian military satellites sent signals to voting machines in the U.S. to change votes for Mr. Biden. (Remember, we are now in the Trumpian Zone.)
- The president planned on appointing a senior DOJ staffer, sympathetic to his efforts to overturn the election, as Acting Attorney General when the existing Acting would not do his bidding. (That plan died when the bulk of the senior professional staff at DOJ threatened to resign if it happened.)
- Emails released by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform show that the president and other White House officials not only pushed DOJ to investigate bogus election fraud cases, they also sent the Acting Solicitor General a draft Supreme Court filing to dispute election results in six states. They pushed DOJ officials to seize voting machines in key states. (A different effort than the Flynn Plan to use the military.)
- The then president organized a “Save America March” in Washington D.C. on 6 January 2021 to protest the election results. The rally was purposely scheduled for the same day that Congress was to certify the Electoral College vote and timed to give the rally goers the opportunity to get to the Capital before the vote. He gave a roughly one hour speech where he exhorted the crowd to “fight like hell” to “take back our country” and repeating over and over that the election was stolen. He mentioned Vice President Mike Pence numerous times incorrectly claiming that the Vice President had the power to stop the Electoral College process. He then sent them on their way.
All of those efforts, and more, were thwarted by dedicated professionals in federal, state and local governments. The system worked! So, now, that means that the system must be changed so that next time, efforts by the ex-president, or someone like him, cannot be stopped. Since the beginning of the year, Republicans throughout all levels of government are hard at work to change the narrative (“nothing bad happened”) while insisting that the system still needs to be “fixed.” Many continue to openly push the Big Lie and to scheme to bring back the former guy.
It would seem that a 9/11 type commission should be empowered to investigate what happened leading up to the 6 January insurrection and to recommend ways to prevent it from happening again. Nothing could be more bipartisan — even non-partisan — than that.
Oh, I forgot.
175 House Republicans and thirty-five Republican Senators (aka the Sedition Caucus) voted against a commission to investigate the attack on 6 January. For that matter, twenty-one House Republicans voted against awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to the police officers that protected them from the insurgents. Some Congressional Republicans continue to push the absurd assertion that it was just a regular day at the Capital and that those rioting inside the building were just “normal” tourists. This comes on top of the 121 House Republicans and six Senate Republicans that voted to overturn the 2020 election by decertifying the results of the Electoral College.
The Big Lie continues to be pushed hard and the never ending explanations for the attack on the Capital now include the preposterous proposition that it was the FBI that instigated and directed the insurrection.
The Grand Old Party is not so grand anymore. Most of its members no longer care about supporting the Constitution or about looking out for the country’s interests. They only owe their allegiance to one man and appear to be signaling to him that it is okay for the ex-president to assault our democracy once again.
Republican legislatures are working over-time around the country to disenfranchise as many voters as possible. Worse than that, they are not just working to suppress the vote, but they have enacted measures to make sure that if their suppression efforts fail, they can ignore the will of the voters and choose winners and losers on their own.
The former guy still will not acknowledge that he lost and is enamored of the idea that he will be “reinstated” in August. The fake audit in Arizona is trying to prove that tens of thousands of ballots in Maricopa County (Phoenix) were shipped in from China by “analyzing” the ballots for bamboo shoots in the paper. (We’re still in the Zone.)
At the same time, it was just revealed that during the last administration DOJ subpoenaed the personal computer and phone records for reporters for CNN, The Washington Post, New York Times and for two members of the House Intelligence Committee. Representatives Adam Schiff (CA) and Eric Swalwell (CA) and their aides’ and families’ records were secretly obtained from Apple. DOJ put a gag order on all of those subpoenas. Those monitored did not find out about it until last month. At the same time that they were under the subpoenas, the then president was publicly calling for them to be arrested and put in jail.
In an attempt to right some of these ongoing wrongs, Democrats bought into Senator Joe Manchin’s (WV) effort to compromise on a bill to protect voting rights. His proposal includes many provisions desired by Republicans. None-the-less, before the proposal could even be analyzed, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) declared that no Republican would vote for it.
Which leads me to ask, given the concerted effort to overturn our democracy and an expressed Republican goal of opposing President Biden’s agenda “100 percent”, why do Democrats continue to try bipartisan solutions to our nation’s problems when the Republicans just shut them down at every turn? By the way, of all of the state legislature attacks on voting rights, none of the new laws are bipartisan.
I have opined in this space before, in conjunction with the horrible effort to combat the pandemic and his general incompetence in office, that the ex-president could only screw it up as badly as he did by trying to screw it up. Thus, perhaps, he was actually a Putin agent. As he coerces and pushes his supporters to continue to devoutly follow the Big Lie and to tear our country apart, I come back around to that idea. Mr. Putin must be thrilled with what he sees happening in the U.S. He said as much during the run up to his summit with President Biden, including calling the 6 January insurrectionists “patriots” that are being persecuted by the U.S. government.
How did I miss the exit sign that said we were on the road to Crazy Town?
It turns out it is impossible for me to resist writing about the recent shenanigans in the House of Representatives. I did not intend to write more about it as it seems self-evident to me as to what occurred, but here I am writing none-the-less. I’ll try to be brief in addressing two main points.
I think what we just experienced is primarily a battle for the future of the Republican Party. I feel strongly that we need a vibrant two-party system as part of the checks and balances inherent in our way of government. For this citizen, I hope that the mainstream Republicans in the Senate and the House prevail over the Tea Party zealots that prefer ideological purity over actually running the country. To this observer, it seems a lot like fundamentalists trying to take over our nation. Thankfully the cooler heads in the Senate prevailed, which actually is not unusual in the history of our legislative process and a reflection of the way it was intended to be done. The House tends to be more impetuous and the Senate tends to be the more deliberate body willing to look at long-term impacts rather than the fad of the moment. Obviously, there are exceptions to the rule on both ends of the equation, but generally the system works. It worked this time, but it took way too long. Time will tell what this all means for the future, but I hope that the fundamentalists in the House have figured out that Senator Ted Cruz is not the Speaker of the House. In my view, Ted Cruz really is only out for himself and has merely hitched a ride with the Tea Party in order to gain attention for self-promotion. The majority of Republicans in the House and Senate need to stand up to Cruz and his kind and appeal to the large majority of us that take a middle of the road approach.
I’m no fan of his, but kudos to Senator Mitch McConnell who is fighting his own re-election challenge from the far right. He was missing in action for far too long, but got it done in the end. Hopefully the experience for both he and Senator Harry Reid will lead to some productive efforts to straighten out the problems that we face in a bi-partisan manner.
My second thought has to do with opposition to Obamacare which, ostensibly, was the reason for the shutdown. For now I will ignore the view that simply because it was championed by President Obama that there was visceral opposition to it regardless of its possible merits. Instead I have several thoughtful colleagues that worry that our country cannot afford it. This is a more reasoned argument and one that needs to be further explored. As I have said in earlier posts, I do not believe that Obamacare will be trouble-free — no undertaking of such magnitude can be counted upon to be trouble-free. However, the fixes should be well thought out and not attempts at outright sabotage to ensure its failure. But I digress. While I do not accept that the Affordable Care Act will be the ruin of our country, either socially or economically, let me concede for arguments sake that it may put a burden on our national finances. I still do not get the logic behind the reasoning that what may (may) be a burden over the long haul — several years into the future — needs to be “fixed” by destroying the nation’s economy now. That is what many Tea Party supporters and Congressmen tried to do with the run-up to the current Continuing Resolution (CR). Some still say it would have been worth it and given the chance, they would do it again. I do not get it. While I am no Nobel Prize winning economist, I do understand what the Nobel Prize winning economists are saying, along with financial experts of every stripe and leading CEOs of major corporations. All indications were that a failure to extend the debt ceiling would over time have a catastrophic impact on our economy and destroy any chance for a continued recovery. Even those staunchly opposed to Obamacare were appalled that the Tea Party Republicans would be willing to cripple our nation economically in order to stop it. I will never understand it. Never. Such an approach runs counter to everything that I understand as a patriotic American. If every one of us acted this way to oppose laws that we disagree with (and there is probably some significant law that most Americans oppose and it is unlikely that it is the same one) then we would be a nation without laws and anarchy would prevail.
I just do not understand how people who say they love their country actually hate it so much that they are willing to risk destroying it to get what they want.