Thursday, December 31, 2020
As most of you know, I was a strenuous Bernie Sanders supporter during the Democratic primaries. In fact, if times had been any but the Trump era, and if anyone had asked me (which, clearly, no one would have) I might have urged Bernie to run as an independent because I think he could well have had the power to shake Washington out of its business-as-usual bipartisan malaise, and perhaps even to become the first independent to win the presidency.
That said, although I feel Democrats as a whole are not yet ready for a Bernie Sanders and that a uniquely experienced and democratic politician like Joe Biden is the perfect president for this time of chaos after the worst and most openly autocratic presidency in the history of the nation, I still hold views on social issues that are much more vigorously in line with those of Bernie Sanders than with those of any other former candidate for the Democratic ticket. And clearly, considering the incredible run for his money that Sanders gave Biden, and how he trounced all of his other competitors, including Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris, in the run-up to the elections, he remains a voice worthy of heeding.
Why? Because enormous numbers of liberal Americans, who swallowed their sadness at Bernie’s hard-fought defeat, later entrusted their votes to the Democratic ticket in perhaps the most important and highly-voted presidential election in the history of the nation—something many of them didn’t do in the previous election due to the enmity fueled by Hillary Clinton’s campaign between her supporters and Bernie’s in the 2016 primary season, a factor that, to some extent, helped seal her defeat and the rise of Donald Trump.
This week, President-elect Biden and Senator Sanders clashed over a social issue of fundamental importance to former Bernie supporters—including not only democratic socialists like Sanders and myself, but also to many left-leaning and moderate liberals of every persuasion. Namely, the notion that quality health care is—not should be—a human right. And that supporting a system that makes proper health care the privilege of the well-to-do is, on its face, un-democratic and un-American.
So two things happened this week that are not helpful in creating a powerful Democratic front aimed at forcing a major change in Washington and in compelling the GOP to put aside its autocratic designs of the past four years. President-elect Biden waded imprudently into highly controversial territory for the vast range of Democrats, and Senator Sanders called him out on it.
The trouble started when Biden flatly declared publicly that if, over the course of the next term, Congress approved a Medicare For All bill, he would veto it. Obviously angered by such a definitive dictum, Bernie didn’t lose any time responding, saying, “The American people deserve to know: Joe, what are you going to do to end the absurdity of the United States of America being the only major country on earth where health care is not a human right? Are you really going to veto a Medicare For All bill if it is passed in Congress? The American people cannot afford half measures that leave millions uninsured. We need Medicare For All.”
The staunchest of Biden supporters will say that this is no time to already start attacking the president-elect, in the midst of a continued coup attempt and before he’s even been sworn in. Supporters of Bernie Sanders and, more specifically, of the right of everyone to have access to quality health care, will argue that Biden is demonstrating from the outset that his mind is closed entirely to the idea of seeking to bring the US into the concert of major nations with regard to ensuring the country’s citizens of government compliance with this universal human right. Both sides are right.
As I see it, Sanders needs to realize that he is no longer campaigning for the presidency, and that there will be plenty of time, once Biden is sworn in, to bring up these issues on the Senate floor and in the media. For now, both small-d democrats and big-D Democrats need to be demonstrating a seamlessly united front with the incoming administration in order to start creating a climate of cooperation in which to put behind us the past four years of war-like divisiveness and authoritarian designs and get American democracy back up onto its feet and walking again.
President-elect Biden, for his part, should also realize that he is no longer campaigning, that his is, indeed, the incoming president of the United States, and that his first job should be—as he has claimed it would be—to seek to join everyone together in nationwide unity of purpose to, first and foremost, overcome the worst pandemic in a hundred years. Certainly, a time when, with more than three hundred thousand Americans dead and a half-million fatalities shortly in the offing, it is less than helpful to reject out of hand ideas for granting Americans their unrestricted right to proper health care.
As in the case of Senator Sanders, there will be plenty of time for President Biden to clearly and articulately state his views on this subject once he is in office, and, hopefully, to reach carefully considered conclusions that take all views into account in search of an acceptable compromise to benefit every American, rather than generating strictly opposing views from the outset.
Monday, December 28, 2020
None but a handful of congressional Republicans has had the guts to speak up and tell the would-be emperor he’s through. And the ones who have timidly, almost apologetically, faced the fact publicly that Joe Biden will be president in less than a month from now have had to confront a maelstrom of Trumpian and Trump-surrogate attacks. It is a shocking affront to democracy that called for someone at the top of the GOP food-chain to speak out unequivocally.
And someone did: GOP propagandist and media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who enthusiastically endorsed the forty-fifth president with every major medium in his holdings, including Fox News, has called out would-be autocrat Trump in no uncertain terms through one of his most high-profile tabloids, the New York Post. From then to now, 2016-2020, Murdoch's almost obscenely Trumpian GOP-partisan paper is telling the president, enough with the bat-shit crazy antics.
Quoth the NY Post:
Mr. President, it’s time to end this dark charade.
We’re one week away from an enormously important moment for the next four years of our country.
On Jan. 5, two runoff races in Georgia will determine which party will control the Senate — whether Joe Biden will have a rubber stamp or a much-needed check on his agenda.
Unfortunately, you’re obsessed with the next day, Jan. 6, when Congress will, in a pro forma action, certify the Electoral College vote. You have tweeted that, as long as Republicans have “courage”, they can overturn the results and give you four more years in office.
In other words, you’re cheering for an undemocratic coup.
You had every right to investigate the election. But let’s be clear: Those efforts have found nothing. To take just two examples: Your campaign paid $3 million for a recount in two Wisconsin counties, and you lost by 87 more votes. Georgia did two recounts of the state, each time affirming Biden’s win. These ballots were counted by hand, which alone debunks the claims of a Venezuelan vote-manipulating Kraken conspiracy.
Sidney Powell is a crazy person. Michael Flynn suggesting martial law is tantamount to treason. It is shameful...
Isn't it about time Trump and his foaming-at-the-mouth followers listened? And isn’t it about time the GOP grew a backbone and took back the party from Trumper conspiracy theorists and far-right mad dogs?
Time to choose: Embrace democracy or share Trump’s shameful “legacy” of attempting to deny the will of the people and instate an authoritarian regime. You are either with him in this final display of sociopathic narcissism and megalomania, or you are against him and support democracy and the Constitution of the United States.
You can’t have it both ways.
Monday, December 21, 2020
Question of the day: How much more flagrant do the actions of Donald Trump and his entourage have to become before there is a general admission on the part of Americans, and especially among all of the country’s remaining small-d democrats on either side of the aisle in Congress (not just Mitt Romney), that the forty-fifth president is, and always has been, a would-be autocrat? And that it is only thanks to the continued institutional integrity of the US Supreme Court, of the federal and state judicial systems, of state election boards, and of the Armed Forces of the United States that his presidency has not spelled the end of America’s two-hundred-fifty-year experiment in democracy.
We now know—his refusal to accept the legitimate outcome of national elections confirms it—that Donald Trump wasn’t kidding, as his apologists always tried to claim, when he expressed his admiration for dictators from Vladimir Putin to Kim Jong-un, or when he heralded Chinese strongman Xi Jinping’s appointment as president-for-life by saying, “Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot here someday,” or when he was campaigning for a chance at a second term and quipped that he was already thinking about a third. Donald Trump is a would-be autocrat who unrealistically (surrealistically) continues to refuse to believe that the people of the United States have refused him four more years after his disastrous first four..
And before I take up the subject of Team Trump’s latest anti-American machinations, I think it would be relevant to define the word SEDITION: Overt conduct, such as speech and organization, that tends toward rebellion against the established order. Sedition often includes subversion of a constitution and incitement of discontent toward, or rebellion against, established authority.
Please bear this definition in mind.
This past weekend there were credible reports from several major mainstream investigative news sources, who quoted executive staff members, regarding a meeting at the White House in which the outgoing (and trying desperately not to) forty-fifth president of the United States got together with at least two high-profile conspiracy theorists who are advocating “limited martial law” as a means of “overturning November’s election results”. One of these subversives—let’s be honest, there’s no other name for them—to whom Trump gave audience is convicted (and presidentially pardoned) felon General Michael Flynn, who, having gotten his get-out-of-jail-free card from the president, is now bent on launching a coup to show his gratitude. The other is lawyer and conspiracy theorist Sidney Powell, who basically just seems to be bat-shit crazy and thinks that former Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chávez—who has been dead for seven years—somehow reached out from the grave to mess with American voting machines in the last election. Her delusions are so extreme that even the president’s zany attorney and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani side-lined her from the legal team that has been leading Trump’s baseless and futile court efforts to overturn the election results. She too is espousing the martial law idea.
Flynn explained his theory further this weekend, saying that martial law was nothing new, that it had been declared dozens of times in US history. He’s right. But it has always, with the exception of the Civil War, been declared on a limited basis under highly unusual and dangerous circumstances, such as not only the Civil War, but also the Great Chicago Fire, earthquakes and other grave natural emergencies, rampant rioting and looting, uncontrollable racial violence, briefly during events surrounding Nine-Eleven, etc. It has never been declared because a sitting president and his party couldn’t deal emotionally with losing an election. In the federal legal code, martial law has been limited by several court decisions handed down between the Civil War and World War II, including the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act that prohibits involvement of the military in domestic law, except when approved by Congress.
Michael Flynn’s suggestion, then, is tantamount to sedition, since it calls for inappropriate use of presidential powers to promote insurrection against the established order. And it should be considered a violation of his oath to defend the Constitution, as a retired general officer in the US Army—a rank which, somehow, despite his disgraceful performance to date and his conviction for felonious lying to the federal authorities—he has managed to retain.
Powell, for her part, continues to maintain her groundless accusations about rigged voting machines in swing states (apparently everything worked just fine in the states where Trump won)—despite assurances by election officials, governors and attorneys general from both parties that results have been checked and double-checked—and in the case of Georgia, a GOP-governed state, triple-checked—and that there are no widespread, systematic or systemic irregularities to report. This has been reconfirmed in at least sixty court cases, many brought in swing states by the legal team of which Powell formed part, and all brought by Trump-or-die supporters at the president’s behest, as well as two cases taken to and flat-out rejected by the Supreme Court of the United States. Still, for no other reason than her own gut-lunacy Powell is pushing for the president to take Flynn up on his martial law proposal so that she can get the voting machines confiscated and have a look at them—to see if the ghost of Chávez is haunting them, perhaps?
What both Flynn and Powell—and indeed the president—are saying is, “You people in the swing states that voted for Biden didn’t vote right. So we want to take over your states by military force and oblige you to vote again...and again...and again, until Trump wins. Why? Because we don’t like Biden and want Trump to keep on being president. Your choice and US democracy be damned! And the majority of the GOP’s members are either keeping their mouths shut in the face of this inexcusably seditious behavior or they are actively participating in it.
So Flynn and Powell are not the only two conspiracy theorists—if you don’t count the president—seeking to use the power of the presidency to overturn the results of a free and fair election. Not by a longshot. Another of the more prominent ones at a local level who has nevertheless gone viral nationally, is Amanda Chase. Chase is a member of the Virginia Senate who aspires to becoming governor of the state.
But that’s not what Chase is best known for—or perhaps “notorious” would be a more appropriate term. Two years ago, she walked into the Virginia Senate, open-packing a loaded .38 revolver. And she was wearing it on her hip while presenting draft legislation to a State Senate committee. Asked why she was carrying a loaded gun to the Legislature, she said it was to act as “a deterrent for over-exuberant folks.”
Chase has also repeatedly posed for photographs with political militant and gunman Antonio Lamotta, who is a promoter of the conspiracy-theory crazies of QAnon. It should be noted that Lamotta, who Amanda Chase seems to admire and want to emulate, was arrested in Philadelphia and charged with a third-degree felony last month, shortly after the general election, for being caught carrying several pistols, an AR-15 assault rifle, and over 150 rounds of ammunition without a valid Pennsylvania firearms permit.
Recently, Chase herself was seen toting an AR-15 at port arms while at a far-right, white supremacist, political rally where she was surrounded by Boogaloo Boys. The Boogaloo Boys, as you may remember, emerged last year from the murky undergrowth of extremist fringe sociopaths that the Trump era has spawned, or at least encouraged. They are sometimes referred to as a militia (the National Guard is a militia, this is just another tribe of would-be felons), but are actually a loosely organized far-right, anti-government, and extremist political group, better described as domestic terrorists.
Bearing her past behavior in mind, it should come as no surprise that Chase last week also called on Trump to impose martial law in her state, making the patently false claim that there was “extensive fraud here in Virginia” and that Democrats had “cheated to win.” Her statement drew immediate condemnation from Republican lawmakers and former lawmakers including Denver Riggleman, Barbara Comstock and David Ramadan. Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Kirk Cox called her statements “absurd and dangerous”, and Virginia Democratic Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton said Chase was “unhinged”.
Sidney Powell has been spreading her ridiculous fantasies to anyone who wants to hear them in Trumpland, apparently having taken a real shine to grabbing a mic and standing up in front of a (maskless, non-socially-distanced) crowd and, in doing so, actually manages to make Rudy Giuliani look marginally sane. Flynn, for his part, has been seen protesting outside of the Supreme Court with QAnon members and other extremist lunatics, as if their un-righteous outrage could change the views of the highest court in the land, whose decisions are founded on the rule of law and, hence, final, since there is no higher court to appeal to.
Meanwhile, in Congress there’s a
covey of coup-mongers who say they may try and throw a monkey wrench into the
transition when the
Legislature convenes on January 6th, by seeking a vote on whether to accept or reject the Electoral College’s final count. What do they hope to accomplish when Biden hammered Trump by a margin of seventy-four electors? Well, a good “what’s-in-it-for-me” indicator came from former jock and college football coach, now-Senator Tommy Tuberville, who must be missing his former days of gladiator glory in the stadium and is looking for a new Caesar to impress, since, according to Trump, Tommy Tuberville credited the president with making him “the most popular politician in the United States.” (Careful there, Tommy, The Don doesn’t like being outshined). Which is why Tuberville now appears willing to call for a vote on the EC count, and, in doing so, go against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who has way-belatedly accepted President-elect Biden’s legitimate win and has asked his colleagues to help move the country smoothly to the inauguration.
Everybody wants something from Trump in return for their futile attempts to overturn the elections. But mostly they want to avoid being pilloried by him on Twitter, or having him give them a thumbs-down so that his base feeds them to the lions at the polls—this last being the case of David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler in the run-offs that they must still face in Georgia.
In the lower house, it’s Republican Representative Mo Brooks who is leading a plot to reject Biden's Electoral College victory. The congressman has said he wants to reject the electoral votes certified by states such as Georgia and Pennsylvania that had what he calls “flawed election systems” a notion already quashed by the Supreme Court and dozens of lower courts.
Republican Representative Riggleman, whom I mentioned earlier, had pretty much the same appraisal of all of this as I did in describing Sidney Powell, saying that “the technical term for it is bat-shit crazy.” Trump’s own former National Security Advisor John Bolton—who is historically and famously known as a right-wing hawk but who, in the era of Trump sounds moderate (or at least sane) by comparison—termed the call for martial law by Flynn and those including the president who have actually listened to him instead of laughing him out of the room, “appalling” and “unprecedented”, as was the president’s continued refusal to accept the reality of his loss.
The most outspoken GOP member by far has been Republican Senator Mitt Romney who called these latest flirtations with authoritarianism “really sad” and “embarrassing”. Romney said that just when the president could have been taking one last big victory lap for the speed with which the country had come up with two vaccines with which to fight the COVID-19 epidemic, he is instead hunkered down denying the results of a free and fair election. Said Romney, “He could be championing this story (about the vaccines) but instead he’s leaving Washington with conspiracy theories and things so nutty and loopy that people are shaking their heads, wondering what in the world has gotten into this man. I think that is unfortunate because he has more accomplishments than this last chapter suggests he is going to be known for.”
And Romney is right. Rather than being known for the success of Warp Speed, Trump will go down in history as the president who encouraged the people to deny the science, a denial which has been the direct cause for hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths. And given the course so far of his last seventy days in office, he will also be known as the first leader in US history to abuse presidential power and actively seek to overthrow democracy and disenfranchise the American voter.
Try as I might to keep my sense of humor and make light of the insanity in the grip of which the United States continues to find itself, despite the fact that the election is over, certified state by state and re-certified by the overwhelming results of the Electoral College vote, the continued denial in which the president and his cohorts are submersed is worthy of genuine concern. Particularly since, having run out of legitimate legal options through which to try and build a case for which he has absolutely no corroborating evidence, he has now surrounded himself with conspiracy theorists, coup-mongers, violent fringe groups and political opportunists who are seeking to ride on his coattails and, no matter what the cost to the country, to grab some of the dissipating populist power than he once clearly commanded.
What we should pay attention to here is the euphemistic language being used to describe what we are witnessing. What Trump and his now unadulterated far-right fringe entourage are trying to do can no longer be called “seeking to overturn the election results.” After a legitimate, free, fair and duly certified elections and with Inauguration Day less than a month off, the current machinations in the Trump camp are a blatant attempt to overthrow the established order in the United States of America. If the same thing were happening in any African or Latin American nation, no one would think twice about calling it what it is: an attempted overthrow, in short, an attempted coup d’état.
Many people are thinking that it doesn’t really matter. That it will soon be over. That Trump is history. That a new dawn is coming in which everyone will come to his or her senses and say, we have to start mending our fences and healing the divisions. We have to make amends, realize that what has happened here is grave and that it must be avoided in the future. We have to start working together across the aisle and throughout the community for the good of America.
But a great deal has been broken over the course of the past four years—and of the four years before that. And once the ideals and principles of a democracy have been shattered, it is a monumental task to put them back together again, a task that requires selfless and eager cooperation. In a United States in which people no longer see each other as Americans first and foremost but where they tend to divide sharply between right and left, it’s hard to see that happening any time soon. But hopefully it eventually will.
In the end, this will either be seen merely as one of the darkest chapters in the political history of the United States that is now, thankfully, coming to an end, or it will be seen as when “the new normal” began and political hatred and in-fighting destroyed a two and a half-century-old democracy, the greatest the world had ever known.
Tuesday, December 15, 2020
Sunday, December 13, 2020
Clearly, the Executive Branch in cahoots with the vast majority of Republican members of the Legislature have been complicit in repeated attempts to thwart the democratic process and scavenge power from wherever they could find it in order to suppress and overturn the results of voting that a heroically honest Trump-appointed member of the Department of Homeland Security described as the most secure election in US history. Even Trump-surrogate Attorney General William Barr, following initial attempts to do his boss’s bidding in seeking dirt with which to invalidate the election process, has had to admit that, in all honesty, there is no there-there—no widespread, systematic voter fraud, no rigged voting software, no “voting dead” or multiple ballots cast by single voters, no anything of import.
Obviously, in Trumpland, where The Big Lie is the sole prevailing policy of state, telling the truth cost the DHS’s Christopher Krebs his job and put the attorney general in the hot seat. But Krebs is now a hero among small-d democrats, and perhaps Barr can go home after all this without having entirely bled-out every last shred of his reputation on the sacrificial altar of Trumpism.
|Trumpland, where telling the truth is heroism|
Just before the weekend this past week the Supreme Court again put a stop to a bogus claim of election irregularities entered by team Trump, this time through the State of Texas, whose attorney general, Ken Paxton, allowed the Lone Star State to be used as a Trumpian shill by filing a baseless claim of unconstitutionality against election processes in four swing states: Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. It is, perhaps, worth noting that Attorney General Paxton is currently reported to be under FBI investigation for allegedly placing the power of his office at the service of a political donor. This report is what has been giving rise to speculation that he might have also placed himself at Trump’s disposal to whip up a last-ditch spurious case to bring before the Supreme Court so as to try and assure himself of a slot on the president’s good-bye pardon list. If so, it was a cheap vow he made to the president, since legal observers tended to agree from the outset that the Texas brief would never fly in the US Supreme Court, because Texas had no authority to question election laws in other states.
This was not, as you may know, the first time that the Supreme Court basically told Trump and his zany surrogates to go pound salt. The other filing was sponsored by Trump-or-bust Congressman Mike Kelly against his home state, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, for supposedly violating its own election laws. That time, earlier this month, the Court responded with a terse one-line refusal: “The application for injunctive relief presented to Justice Alito and by him referred to the Court is denied.”
Whatever the headings placed on these two attempts at filing with the Supreme Court as a ruse to shove a stick into the spokes of presidential transition, a proper choice to title them would have been “Trump v America” or “Trump v Democracy”. No matter how much we may make light of Team Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s dye-dripping meltdown, or the insane ravings of that legal team’s former member Sidney Powell about long-dead Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chávez’s having something to do with sabotaging the 2020 US elections, there is no way to stress enough how serious and tragic the administration’s multiple attempts to spuriously invalidate the final outcome—which could not have been clearer or more transparent—really are. Because, make no mistake, one state seeking to violate the states rights of four other states by attempting to dictate how they should run their elections, for the sole purpose of overturning free and fair voting results, in order to favor the defeated incumbent over the victorious challenger, couldn’t be more un-American. Nor could there be any more direct assault on democracy.
Texas (or at least its attorney general) was, quite obviously, acting as a surrogate for the forty-fifth president, whose wounded inner-child psyche can’t believe—privileged enfant terrible that he has always fancied himself—that he could actually lose and is attempting to make the founding principles of American democracy pay the price for his self-righteous disappointment.
The only thing that could be worse than seeing the final deterioration of a mentally unstable (and I’m being kind here) US president is to see a significant number of other representatives of the American people indulging or, indeed, buying into a rogue leader’s madness. And that, sadly, tragically, devastatingly, is precisely what we are witnessing. As such, what we are also witnessing is, perhaps, the second worse threat to American democracy in the history of the United States.
Some see Meacham as a conservative, others as a liberal. He himself has been quoted as saying, “I’m not really sure where the split is between liberal and conservative. I tend to write about people who you would think the right would be very interested in, but if I meet [readers] they’re probably on the left. Does that make sense? The Andrew Jackson book—you’d think that would be Republican, but if I walk into a bookstore somewhere, seventy percent of the crowd is going to be ‘NPR people’.”
Perhaps that’s because the definition of the right in America has suffered a quantum leap from the original meaning of “liberal democracy” toward the ever tighter embracing of authoritarian principles on the right. And old-time center-right conservatives like Meacham (indeed, like Dwight Eisenhower as well, I’m convinced) are now being seen more and more by the right as “dangerous leftists”.
|Meacham...searching for "better angels"|
To wit: “We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
In that book, Meacham posited, mid-way through the Trump presidency, that the climate of partisan fury we were witnessing was not new. He sought to show that what Abraham Lincoln called the “better angels of our nature” have repeatedly won the day, despite the horrors of the post-Civil War Reconstruction Era and because of the struggles and sacrifice of the earliest Suffragettes, the stubborn will of civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King and John Lewis, and the humanity of someone like Eleanor Roosevelt. In The Soul of America, he looks at how American democracy has survived—thanks to the general quality of its leadership and the patriotic spirit of its people—such turning points as the Civil War, the so-called Lost Cause, the backlash against immigrants during World War I, the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s, the demagoguery of the far-right America First movement in the run-up to World War II, the lawless reigns of political bosses like Huey Long, and the witch-hunts led by Senator Joseph McCarthy during the Red Scare of the nineteen-forties and fifties. In a quote from that book, he says that while things may look gloomy, “The good news is that we have come through such darkness before,” as a result of Lincoln’s “better angels” finding a way to prevail.
But in recent statements, even an American optimist like Meacham is hardly sounding bullish. In a brief interview with CNN late-night host Don Lemon, he recently referred to the GOP as “a party dissociated from reality” as it does the bidding of an off-kilter president who is using its members to try and overturn the results of a free and fair election. He confirmed that what’s happening is unprecedented in American politics and a clear and present danger to democracy. The only comparable phenomenon he could offer was when Lincoln won the presidential election of 1860 and eleven states seceded from the Union to form the Confederacy.
According to Meacham, what was happening right now—a president and his party seeking to disenfranchise well over half the country and impose a virtually authoritarian regime—was not about two parties debating two opposing sides of an argument. Rather, he said, it was two parties “speaking two entirely different languages.” And Jon Meacham is not wrong. The vast majority of the Republican Party—which should, perhaps, considering the current reality, change its name to the “Trumpian Party”—is speaking the language of authoritarianism, while both large-D and small-d democrats are speaking the language of freedom, equality and democracy.
To believe that the president and his party are, by any stretch of the imagination, posing legitimate questions about the outcome of an election that is now over and decided—except for the formality of the Electoral College vote—is ludicrous. Anyone who still believes that this is anything but a mentally disturbed leader’s attempt to steal the election with the shameful aid of hundreds of GOP politicians is simply in denial.
Days before the election, iconic American intellectual and political observer Noam Chomsky described Trump to an interviewer as “a president who has said if he doesn’t like the outcome of an election, he’ll simply not leave office.” Professor Chomsky went on to say that this imminent potential threat to democracy had been “taken seriously enough that, for example, two high-level, highly respected, retired military officers—one of them very well known, Lieutenant Colonel John Nagl—actually went to the extent of writing an open letter to General Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reminding him of his constitutional duties to send in the American military to remove the President from office if he refuses to leave.”
And clearly, as we now know, both Chomsky and the military were right to consider this contingency, when, having lost more than fifty court actions brought by Team Trump since the election in attempts to overturn the results, only one has been even remotely considered by the various judges to present any validity whatsoever. And yet, Trump and the vast majority of GOP politicians in Congress continue to actively seek to erode confidence in the validity of this election—one might argue to their own detriment in the case of GOP senators and representatives who were on the down-ballot in November and won, since if the ballots were invalid in Trump’s case, they were invalid in theirs as well. But we are living in an era of ruling party lies and magical thinking in which logic plays no part.
Most people are by now convinced that Joe Biden is the president-elect and that he will be sworn in as such next month. The rejection of Texas’s bid to get a Supreme Court hearing and hold up certification of the 2020 election is being seen as the failed last attempt—among myriad others—of the Trump regime to snatch the election out of the hands of American voters. But what do we do with the undeniable fact that not only an administration beholden to Trump, but also dozens upon dozens of elected senators and representatives of the people of the United States have willingly and knowingly been part of a plot to overturn the results of one of the most transparent elections in history? How do we deal with the fact that these politicians, who, if they could have found a way, would have willfully and knowingly undermined democracy and the Constitution of the United States simply to maintain their grip on power, will be remaining in office for at least the coming term with their anti-democratic and, dare I say, un-American ideology accompanying them?
On Monday the Electoral College will vote and, if representative democracy has survived in America, the tragicomedy of errors known as the Trump administration should be officially over. All electors except those from Nebraska and Maine, are bound by state law to cast their votes in accordance with the outcome of the presidential voting results in their states. This should, then, be a mere formality, and, in accordance with certified election results, Joe Biden should receive three-hundred six electoral votes, and Donald Trump two hundred thirty-two, giving President-elect Biden a comfortable win of seventy-four EC votes.
But in the last four years, we’ve become more than accustomed to shocking and unpleasant surprises—violations of American traditions and principles that most of us never would have believed were possible. So while there now seems to be little doubt that the democratic process will survive (thanks almost entirely to American Justice), only time will tell what other outrages we might have to endure from here until January 20, 2021, and beyond. Hopefully, in the new year, all of these machinations will only be like the memory of a four-year nightmare.
Thursday, December 3, 2020
Monday, November 30, 2020
Sunday, November 22, 2020
Earlier this month, on Veterans Day, while speaking at the opening of the new military museum at Ft. Belvoir, Virginia, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces, General Mark Milley, affirmed the following: "We are unique among armies, we are unique among militaries. We do not take an oath to a king or queen, or tyrant or dictator, we do not take an oath to an individual. No, we do not take an oath to a country, a tribe or a religion. We take an oath to the Constitution, and every soldier that is represented in this museum—every sailor, airman, marine, coastguard—each of us protects and defends that document, regardless of personal price."
|General Mark Milley|
General Milley, the country’s top general officer, was referring to the same oath that I and many other veterans of my era—and those before and since—have sworn to. It begins like this: “I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same...”
I still stand by that oath, and so too, apparently, do the Armed Forces...at least for now. But a lot of surprising things have been happening over the course of the past four years, and those who have chosen to understate or ignore them could be in for some very unpleasant surprises in the future, as might we all.
The fact that General Milley felt called upon to reaffirm this oath —especially on Veterans Day, a sacred day for military personnel and veterans alike—is telling within the current unprecedented context. Especially after Milley’s commander in chief saw fit a few days before to carry out a shake-up at the top of the chain of command, starting with the firing of the defense secretary and continuing with the sacking of some high-ranking Pentagon officials. The president made little secret of why he was doing this. He was seeking to entrench “Trump loyalists” in the military two months out from what, considering the November 3 election results, should be his final day in office. He also made it clear that he was rejecting those results and planned to stay put, which rendered the Pentagon shake-up pointed and ominous.
It’s not hard to surmise, then, that General Milley knew precisely whom he was referring to when he said that soldiers “do not take an oath to an individual.” Because ever since Donald Trump took office in January of 2017, he has been demanding loyalty, not to the Constitution or even to the United States, but to him personally, from everyone on the roster of State, and he has deemed anyone who refused to comply a “member of the deep state”—yet another fantasy of his own fevered imagination.
The concern is, however, that such is the power of the image of the presidency—a personal power comparable only to that of the Pope within the Roman Catholic Church in terms of mass belief in the superiority of the personage holding the office—that these paranoid fantasies that flourish in Donald Trump’s mind have a contagious effect on his following. Indeed, nearly every time Trump supporters chide Trump critics for pointing to this particular White House resident’s severely flawed personality, they do so by harping on “lack of respect for the institution of the presidency”, rather than acknowledging that this president’s estranged relationship with truth and reality is like none other in the history of the office he holds.
Unfortunately, the Republican Party leadership’s prioritizing of winning over American democratic ideals is such that the majority-Trumpian GOP is perfectly willing to not only indulge but also to fan the flames of this fever in hopes of being able to cling to power at the expense of the people’s faith in the most noteworthy experiment in democracy in the history of the world. And this is only serving to institutionalize the climate of distrust that Trump and Company are seeking to breed, thus pitting the somewhat less than half of the population that is convinced Trumpian propaganda is true against the more than half the population that realizes that it is a pernicious lie.
Over the course of the past couple of weeks, I have engaged repeatedly with Trump-supporters on the social media. Some are too dismissive to develop any rapport with whatsoever. Suffice it to say that on presenting my views on democratic ideals I have no few times been referred to in these post-election days as “a communist”, “an activist”, “an ass”, “a simpleton”, and “an imbecile”—more specifically, “a full-of-shit imbecile”. But those who have maintained sufficient logic and manners to present salient arguments have, to a man and woman, clung to the sole and valid idea of what the president and his campaign apparatus can legally do to challenge the election results.
None of these people, unfortunately, seems to be listening when I repeatedly agree that any candidate has certain legal recourse available when he or she has reason to suspect fraud. They have again and again accused me of wanting to forego certification of the vote and the legal rights of the president and the GOP and simply allow the media to call the election. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth or more ludicrous to anyone at all familiar with my ardently democratic principles for which I have, in another time and place, literally put my life on the line. I fully agree that no vote is final until certified and that, if there is a shadow of a doubt about corruption, it should be investigated. As in any other lawsuit, however, not on the basis of party passion, disappointment over outcome, political ambitions, candidate preference or unmitigated hearsay, but only on the basis of hard evidence and indisputable facts.
The other argument of mine that Trump supporters consistently ignore—because, I suspect, they have absolutely no valid stance with which to rebut it—is that while any and all proper legal recourse in the courts is valid, intervention by the Department of Justice, and more specifically, by the attorney general is not. Period. The only time that the attorney general can legitimately intervene in an election process is when all other legal recourse has been exhausted and election results certified, despite there still existing apparent and compelling evidence of irregularities. Otherwise, there is a hard and fast rule that the attorney general—who represents every citizen of the United States, not the president or a party—cannot intervene to cast doubt on, or to seek to overturn election results, especially when this key public official is doing so in the name of the ruling party and administration to which he or she is beholden. Attorney General William Barr has very apparently run afoul of this rule by announcing that the DOJ would be opening a pre-certification investigation into claims of voter fraud to the detriment of the incumbent.
This is a clear violation of democratic principles. The aim of the rule against the DOJ’s getting involved prior to finalization and certification of the election is self-apparent: It is to ensure that no president can become a dictator by using the machinery of government to neutralize the chances of an opponent’s winning the race. Barr, and by association, Donald Trump, have violated that trust.
The thread-bareness of Trump followers’ affirmation of the legality of the incumbent’s attempts to stall the inevitable and to refuse to concede the other candidate’s election victory lies in a question of legitimacy. The fact is that, to date, after dozens of filings, none of the suits brought by the Trump campaign has managed to make one iota of difference in the overall election results. And the court decisions handed down have mostly been rebuffs so severe that if Trump or his campaign were capable of anything even approaching shame or honor these findings would be a source of profound embarrassment.
In a suit in Michigan in which Republican poll-watchers tried to block certification in Detroit alleging fraud and misconduct, Circuit Court Judge Timothy Kenny ruled that, “it would be an unprecedented exercise of judicial activism for this court to stop the certification process of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers,” adding that “Plaintiffs’ interpretation of events is incorrect and not credible.” The same suit was taken to a federal court under a new title where Trump’s team ended up dropping legal action after a lawyer for the city of Detroit suggested that the president’s campaign was seeking “to try the same case in multiple courtrooms hoping that somebody will provide an endorsement of their baseless conspiracy theories.”
Also in Michigan, four voters sought exclusion of all votes cast in three counties on allegations of fraud and irregularities. They did this with no corroboration, claiming officials had counted the ballots of ineligible voters and citing unverified reports of software glitches and dead people voting that had appeared on Fox News. The suit was later dropped.
A suit regarding the Detroit vote that was only cosmetically different from the one thrown out of court by Judge Kenny and later dropped by a federal court was filed again in yet another court, but was dropped by the plaintiffs themselves only a few days after filing.
When Michigan swung hard toward Biden, a desperate Trump campaign team again tried to halt the count, this time presenting an affidavit from one poll-watcher who said that another poll-watcher (whom she refused to name) told her that she had been told by unnamed poll workers to change the date received on a ballot.
|Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani|
Michigan Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens interpreted the so-called affidavit as “I heard someone else say something.” Addressing the plaintiff, she said, “Tell me how that is not hearsay. Come on now!”
In Pennsylvania, the Trump campaign sought to block certification of voting due to minor errors in otherwise properly signed and cast absentee, mail-in and other ballots. Common Pleas Court Judge James Crumlish denied the viability of any of the claims.
Four Pennsylvania voters later sought to block all votes from four counties alleging violation of the right to equal protection due to different absentee balloting practices from one county to the next. Shortly afterward, seeing the hopelessness of the claim, the Trump team decided to request withdrawal of the suit. The court dropped it and three more similar cases from the docket.
In Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, the Trump team sought to block the counting of six hundred mail-in votes because the Election Board had notified the voters that they had forgotten to fill in missing information on their ballot envelopes. When the attorney for the plaintiff was asked by the judge if any of the errors involved fraud, he admitted that they didn’t. Judge Richard Haaz disallowed the petition to annul the ballots saying, “Voters should not be disenfranchised by reasonably relying upon voting instructions provided by election officials which are consistent with the Election Code.”
These are just a few examples of the similar fates of all of some thirty court filings on behalf of Trump since Election Day. Perhaps the most humiliating was when Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, a supposed legal eagle who hasn’t actually practiced law in decades but is reported to be pulling down twenty thousand dollars a day in Trump-campaign-paid legal fees was chided by a federal judge for the suit he filed last week in Pennsylvania.
District Court Judge Matthew W. Brann, who heard Giuliani’s argument, said that what Trump’s lawyer had presented to the court was “strained legal arguments without merit and (with) speculative accusations.” The judge indicated that what Giuliani filed wasn’t tied to the actual complaint or supported by any evidence.
“In the United States of America, this cannot justify the disenfranchisement of a single voter, let alone all the voters of its sixth-most-populated state. Our people, laws and institutions demand more,” the judge concluded.
Suffice this sampling of the Trump campaign’s exercising of its legal right to date to conclude that while legal, what the president is doing is less than legitimate. The pathetic nature of the filings up to now appears to be nothing more than a smokescreen for the election loss and, worse still, a ruse to create “dozens of court cases” questioning the results, even if those cases are quickly and unceremoniously dropped by the Trump team, in order to create a superficial climate of doubt regarding the election results and the clear legitimacy of President-elect Biden’s win. At last count, although many results still require final certification, Biden had a 5.98 million popular vote lead over Trump and is expected to command a more than seventy-vote lead over Trump in the Electoral College. Given the anemic performance of the Trump campaign’s legal team to date—it’s hard to see how they might have some ace up their sleeve when they’ve failed so miserably to produce any compelling evidence in court up to the present—those results are unlikely to change significantly, if at all, in favor of the incumbent.
The only conclusion, then, is that Trump’s entire strategy—such as it is—in refusing to do what every other president in living memory has done for the good of the Union and concede, is to sow discord, to undermine faith in the system, to basically slash and burn democracy so that if it doesn’t conform to his ambitions it will no longer be viable for his successors and will leave them with an ungovernable population.
These are the tenets of fascism. To scratch, claw and bite one’s way like a rat to the top of a personality cult that rewards dictatorial charisma over democratic vigor and that prefers blind loyalty to individuality and the dictates of a populist mob to respect for civil rights.
Already in Georgia this week—where the Republican governor and secretary of state have done the right thing by placing party beneath country and by not only ensuring an absolutely transparent election but also by certifying the results after a machine count and a hand count—pro-Trump protesters took to the streets to object to the clearly fair outcome. They declared themselves “the new Republicans” and dubbed “traitors” the governor, the secretary of state and a handful of other Republicans who have suggested it’s time for the president to concede and open the way to transition.
As the final results are confirmed and certified, it is likely that this kind of unrest could become much wider spread and perhaps more violent, since Trump’s disregard for democracy and his efforts to cast doubt on what one of his own appointed—and subsequently fired—Homeland Security officials called “the most secure election in history”, have “succeeded” in creating the perception among an estimated seventy percent of Republicans that they have been cheated and that the election has been stolen from them. It seems, from my experience, to be futile to ask any of these election deniers why on earth, if the Democrats really did “throw” the election, they would have permitted the GOP to do so incredibly well in the House, where the party gained numerous seats, or in the Senate, where control has come down to the fate of two run-off elections in a single state. They simply glaze over and repeat the litany that Trump was cheated, when nothing could be further from the truth.
Having resisted and survived dictatorial rule elsewhere in the world, I am disheartened and gravely concerned about the trend that Donald Trump’s four years in office have wrought in my native US. Polarization of rival parties, the prioritizing of dogma over truth, the successful impact of institutionalized lies and propaganda on the thinking of an enormous proportion of the population and the elevation of a sociopathic and narcissistic personality to Pope-like levels of popularity based on such critically destructive ideologies as racism, xenophobia, ultra-nationalism and hatred of “the other”.
I return often to the question that I have heard Americans ask time and again: How could a country like Germany ever have fallen under the spell of a dictator like Hitler? All I can do is point to what is happening right now and say that history repeats itself.
The conservatives who helped bring Hitler to power by largely “democratic” means, never believed that he would be able to use the clout that they had bestowed on him as chancellor to later create a single-party dictatorship. But the echoes of the past are there when, going into this election, we heard Trump repeatedly say that the only way he could lose was if there was fraud. Just as German conservatives fancied that they could “control” Hitler and “tame” his Nazi followers, so too the GOP thought that they could control Trump and his followers. Instead, their party has been usurped and is now the party of Trump and they are being held hostage by Trump’s base, which they so fear losing that they are willing to try and help them subvert democracy by continuing to deny the indisputable facts of this month’s election.
German journalist Theodor Wolff wrote in the Frankfurter Zeitung shortly after the Nazis won power in the country’s parliament that there was nothing to fear from Hitler. Although Hitler would surely fight the left tooth and nail and although it was true that he was backed by a virulent and violent base, there was "a barrier, over which violence cannot proceed" in Germany. Germany, he claimed, was a nation that was too “proud of its freedom of speech and thought” to allow itself to live under tyranny.
|The right was sure it could control Hitler|
In January of 1933, Wolff wrote: “It is a hopeless misjudgment to think that one could force a dictatorial regime upon the German nation. [...] The diversity of the German people calls for democracy.”
It is truly hard to watch what is happening in the US right now and not be reminded of this. Although democracy has apparently willed out, make no mistake that if Trump and many of his followers could overturn this free and fair election by whatever means necessary and with total disregard for democracy, they almost undoubtedly would.
What happens over the next four years after the worrying events of the last four will be of capital importance in determining the survival of American democracy. To paraphrase Theodor Wolff, will “the diversity of the American people (continue to) call for democracy?”
We shall see.