“Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and to get into good trouble, necessary trouble.”
— John Lewis
There is an autocrats play book. History is full of examples of successes and failures. Those that succeed most often follow a step-by-step process that creates an insidious stream of events that lead to a strongman in power. First, condone violence. “You also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.” Second, do not accept election results. “Stop the steal!” Then the violence becomes political violence. “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” Then it becomes political violence to overturn lost elections. “We’re going to walk down to the Capitol… because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong.” In my view, the insurrection on 6 January is only the beginning.
A not so fun fact: Since 1 January 2021 there have been about 70 bomb threats on Capitol Hill. Just another day at the office.
With or without Congress taking action to normalize our elections across all fifty states, there will be more violent political activity. Currently Congress is working to enfranchise all eligible voters, thus overturning the many state voting laws that limit voting and give power to Republican controlled entities to overturn any election that their candidate does not win. With the passage of a national voting law, we will survive the attempted coups and remain a democratic Republic. Without such laws, I fear we will not survive as a democracy.
While voting laws have been the purview of state legislatures, there is ample precedent for national standards. In addition, Article I, Section 4 of the Constitution, commonly known as the “elections clause,” and as modified by the 17th and 20th Amendments, gives Congress the power to “at any time by Law make or alter such regulations” passed by individual states.
The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act was passed by the House in 2020 but not by the Senate and has since been reintroduced. It is designed to reinstate provisions of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965 to over ride a 2013 Supreme Court decision that gutted the core elements of the VRA.
A second bill called the Freedom to Vote Act was an attempt by Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) to create a compromise bill, stripped of some its more controversial elements, that could gain ten Republican votes to over ride the filibuster of the For the People Act already passed by the House. After a summer’s worth of work and assurances from Senator Manchin that he could find some moderate Republicans in favor of the bill, not one Republican voted for over riding a filibuster to bring it to the floor for discussion. For discussion. They will not even talk about voting rights in the Senate, much less vote to protect those rights.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R?-KY) is counting on Senator Manchin to effectively do his dirty work as Mr. Manchin vociferously proclaims that he will do nothing to eliminate the filibuster for voting rights. An outdated Senate rule is apparently more important than allowing people to vote and to maintain the integrity of election results.
Thus, phase one of the Republicans’ attack on democracy continues without interruption.
This leads me to the second phase of that plan. The demonstrations — occasionally violent but with violence always as an implied threat — over masks, Covid-19 vaccines, and Critical Race Theory (CRT). Initially, I could not fully grasp what the problem might be. Why such vehement over reaction? So much of our common good derives from mandatory actions — seat belts, smoking, drinking and driving, wearing shirts and shoes in restaurants, and other required vaccines, for example — to protect the individual and the community at large. People do not protest those requirements, so why these? Now I am beginning to get it. The issues are merely excuses for most protesters, not core beliefs. To put it in simple terms, they are mad as hell and aren’t going to take it anymore. The issues themselves are not relevant. They are just mad. Nearly any issue will do, and in fact the issues do change over time and depend on the circumstance. These issues are merely symbols for pushing back on what they see as a dominant federal government that is mandating change. Be it LGBTQ issues, same sex marriage, immigration, an increasingly diverse nation, and on and on. The white, male, Christian dominated society that they believe is the true essence of our American national identity is changing. And they will not go quietly into that new society.
That is the genius of Trumpism. Tap into the rage, the fear and the sense of loss and turn it into power.
As a result, we are now seeing 6 Januarys across the country at school board meetings, county council meetings and other local seats of community engagement. The threats, intimidation and violence against local elected officials and their families are a manifestation of Trumpism and the autocratic methods of using violence as the means to achieve political ends. If they can remove the officials that are the focus of their ire, or better yet, intimidate them into quitting, then they can replace them with people that will do their bidding. Please do not misinterpret my comments to mean that I object to legitimate protest, I do not. I understand that such protests can get heated at times. What I am talking about is a lot more than that. When people show up at local officials homes, burn slogans into their grass, brandish weapons outside their windows, and conduct other such documented “protests,” then we are in an entirely different world.
Perhaps the people using such tactics are a tiny minority of the population, but the impact that they have is real and significant. History tells us that be it Russia in 1917, Germany in 1933, or nearly any country where autocrats now rule, they were in the minority until they seized control. Autocratic parties generally are a minority party when they seize power. That explains the tactics to suppress the vote, to intimidate those that do not support them, and to use violence to refute and change election results.
I have lost faith in our elected officials in Congress. The Democrats continue with “regular order” and debates within the party that create the appearance that they cannot get their act together. When faced with direct threats to our democracy they act like wimps in the face of these challenges choosing to honor arcane rules of the Senate that do not have a basis in law or the Constitution rather than to support and defend the Constitution. Republicans are the party of “no!” I do not believe that they stand for anything. Their only goal is to march in lock step to use Trump and his followers to regain power. They are using those arcane rules — especially in the Senate — to stop anything and everything put forward by President Biden or his party. They do not just vote against it, they filibuster almost everything, making it nearly impossible in the current environment to do anything, even if as many as nine Republican Senators support it (although most times the total number of Republican votes for something is zero).
We already are a minority rule country. For example, Senators from 21 mostly small or rural states representing less than a quarter of the total population of the country, can stop any legislation of which they do not approve. Put another way, Senators from 15 small states represent 38 million people while the Senators from one state (California) represent 40 million citizens.
We now have an ex-president roaming the country continuing to claim that he is the real president. Recent polls suggest that more and more people believe him. One poll shows that 66 percent of Republican voters and 18 percent of Independent voters believe that the election was “stolen” from the ex-president. 53 percent of Republicans in another recent poll believe that the ex-president is the “true president.” That does not bode well for a democracy. Propaganda works. Tell a lie enough times and people start to believe it. Unfortunately, history provides countless examples.
Most threatening, and appalling, is that the Sedition Caucus (those that voted against certifying Joe Biden as the 46th president) in Congress is growing stronger. New candidates recruited to run as Republicans in the 2022 election are nearly universally required to continue to vociferously support the Big Lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen by the Democrats.
(Timeout. It continues to baffle me that to date, no one can explain why there is no evidence of any widespread fraud, ballot manipulation, Jewish-Italian lasers from space or any other discrepancy in the voting process despite nearly countless challenges in court, state audits, faux audits and every other endeavor known to mankind to find a problem. The usual answer is to blow off the lack of evidence as evidence itself. In other words, the Democrats and the thousands of poll workers of both parties required to do what is alleged were so clever, that they left no trace of evidence behind. Also unanswered is why on the same ballots, only the presidential votes were allegedly tampered with but not the hundreds or thousands of other offices voted on during the same election?)
In a country where vigilantes are legitimized by the Supreme Court, Congressional subpoenas are routinely ignored without consequence, people actively attempt to overthrow the government and overturn elections, and the evidence continues to mount that a sitting president tried to use the power of the federal government to remain in office after losing an election, there is real evidence that our way of life is being directly challenged. We are in big trouble.
Where does it stop?
The first and most important step is for Congress to pass legislation to standardize national elections and to ensure that all eligible voters have the opportunity to cast a ballot and that those ballots mean something. The results cannot be overturned by one party that is not happy with the result. Period. Nothing else matters. It is job one and the Democrats need to make it happen. Now. Do your damn jobs and pass the voting rights legislation.
Do not sit by. Get into some good trouble. Elections matter.
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?