When I turned on my phone this morning, there was a message from my friend in Georgia:
“Annie…We WON…Wow…Thanks for your efforts.”
He was referring to the hundreds of post cards my husband and I had written over the past few months encouraging Georgians to vote. (I hadn’t until then thought that we might have played a teensy role in that huge victory.)
Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock will become Georgia’s Senators. And the Democrats will have a majority in the Senate, providing President Biden with the flexibility he needs to govern without being stifled by Mitch McConnell et al.
We were among many, many thousands, part of a nationwide citizen army who also made phone calls and donated what they could to make the ground game possible.
In Georgia, there were organizations dedicated to reaching young Americans, Latino Americans, Asian Americans, and especially Black Americans. They knocked on a million doors, one reported.
Of course the greatest tribute goes to Stacey Abrams and her colleagues for their years-long effort to give her state elected officials who would work for the people of Georgia, an increasingly diverse swath of America.
But to their credit, the Democratic candidates ran on a largely positive message of health care, jobs, and justice, while the Republicans just screamed “Socialists! End of America!”
So I feel the “arc of history” moved substantially toward justice last night. How I wish the great John Lewis were alive to see this solid achievement toward a more equitable and inclusive America!
That Brings Me to Today’s Topic.
I thought I was done with Trump. I hoped never to write about the man again. But what he and his supporters are threatening to do to our democracy today is beyond the beyond.
How do we respond? And, my thoughtful readers from other countries whose lives are intertwined with ours, I welcome your perspectives too. We clearly need all the help we can get.
ITEM: Trump finally reaches Georgia Republican Secretary of State Raffensperger by phone after 18 previous attempts. (Raffensperger has said he thought the calls were inappropriate and did not want to talk with the President.)
In a recorded call, Trump nags, cajoles, pleads, and threatens criminal charges, spouting one disproven conspiracy theory after another.
Raffensperger and his counsel refute Trump’s claims, repeatedly.
Subsequently, another Georgia Republican, elections official Gabriel Sterling, also refutes Trump’s claims—one after the other.
He’s done this so many times before that, as he said in a news conference, the president’s charges had been
“thoroughly debunked…I wanted to scream…I personally found it to be something that was not normal, out of place, and nobody I know who would be president would do something like that to a secretary of state.”
It’s worth pointing out that both he and Raffensperger and family have received death threats for doing their jobs.
It’s also worth pointing out that Trump charged voter fraud before the 2016 election and before this one: if he didn’t win, he claimed, it would clearly mean there had been massive fraud.
ITEM: Today, January 6, Senator Josh Hawley will lead 12 other Republican Senators in an attempt to derail the perfunctory counting of the votes, the final official act prior to the swearing in of President-elect Joe Biden on January 20th.
They will be joined by more than 140 members of the House. All recognize that this is an empty gesture, destined to fail, but apparently are more concerned about appeasing Trump’s ego-and-base than about upholding their Constitutional oaths.
ITEM: Senator Ben Sasse, who has strongly spoken out against this move, reports that all his colleagues have privately acknowledged that Biden was fairly elected, but they fear loss of power—“how it will look” to the members of what is now the Republican base if they don’t join the charade.
ITEM: Pulitzer prize winning economist Paul Krugman explains well in a New York Times editorial how we reached this weird state:
“The past two months have…been an object lesson in the extent to which ‘grass roots’ anger is actually being orchestrated from the top. If a large part of the Republican base believes, groundlessly, that the election was stolen, it’s because that’s what leading figures in the party have been saying. (Emphases mine.)
“Now politicians are citing widespread skepticism about the election results as a reason to reject the outcome—but they themselves conjured that skepticism out of thin air.”
Watch how the Biden administration, soon after taking office and facing immense challenges—many due to Trump’s willful failures—will be peppered by “urgent” investigations of widespread voter fraud—purportedly because it’s important to reassure the public to which Trump and they have lied.
ITEM: Thus Republicans, always states’ rights advocates and devotees of the Electoral College, are hypocritically racing to undermine both concepts. And rending the fabric of our democracy in the process.
Indeed, Charles Koch, far right megafunder, has expressed his concern that this losing campaign will undermine the Electoral College as the method of choosing the President. (Wouldn’t that be ironic?)
So how do we respond to what is clearly an attempted coup—though we know it will fail?
Some have advocated once again impeaching the President. Though it would be good to have the history books cite him as the only President—ever—to have been twice impeached, is that move feasible, and is there time?
Ironically, the President’s behavior on this call is much like that of the call to Ukrainian President Zelenskyy, which earned him that ignominious impeachment.
Members of Congress Ted Lieu and Kathleen Rice have asked FBI director Chris Wray to investigate this call, stating that Trump “engaged in solicitation of, or conspiracy to commit, a number of election crimes.”
I hope if Wray decides to do that, he keeps mum about it. Otherwise, he may well be out of a job.
And those Senators and Representatives who plan to abet the coup? They have just been sworn in to office in an election that they maintain has been marred by widespread fraud.
By what right should they be in office? If they’re in states in which Trump has specifically declared fraud, are they not negating either the will of their electorate or the validity of their own elections?
At the very least, I would like to see each of them be asked to swear under oath that they did, in fact, believe that they were opposing a “stolen” election. I’m betting they won’t.
We need them to state clearly to their constituents that this election was, indeed, fair—and that on January 20th, Joe Biden will legitimately become our President, and Kamala Harris will legitimately be our Vice President.
Once the two new Georgia Senators are sworn in, we will have greater leverage in making urgent changes. One of the first must be passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act—because it’s no mere coincidence that nearly all the areas Trump has questioned have had large percentages of minority voters.
And despite Raffensperger’s bravery in standing up to Trump, he also oversaw reduced voting sites, reduced numbers of drop-off boxes, and other acts of voter suppression.
Make No Mistake About It.
Throughout the country, voter suppression tactics and laws specifically designed to inhibit the votes of America’s growing minority-majority will increase in the wake of Georgia’s shining accomplishment.
It should not be lost in our efforts to save our democracy that these Republican shenanigans have been directed against the governing coalition that the Democrats are assembling, with Black Americans in the forefront, and other minorities important constituencies.
Going forward, unless there’s a huge shakeup in the Republican Party as a result of this travesty, I believe we have to assume that only one of our two major parties is now legitimate.
As Krugman writes:
“The modern GOP…isn’t like anything we’ve seen before, at least in American history. If there’s anyone who wasn’t already persuaded that one of our two major political parties has become an enemy, not just of democracy, but of truth, events since the election should have ended their doubts.”
The Times columnist Michelle Goldberg runs through all the “excuses for not investigating Trump” and states that they “make at least some sense.” Still, she writes “…if there is no penalty for Republican cheating, there will be more of it.”
Goldberg reminds us that when the Republicans refused to impeach the President, they
“insisted that if Americans didn’t like his behavior, they could vote him out. Americans did, and now Trump’s party is refusing to accept it.”
“…You can’t rely on elections to punish attempts to subvert elections. Only the law can do that, even if it’s inconvenient.”
How do we balance President-Elect Biden’s desire to look forward and reach across the aisle—and our desire not to appear like a banana republic that says, Trump-style, “Lock him up!”—with the urgent need to demonstrate effectively that what Trump and his Congressional backers are doing cannot go unchallenged?
The small-d democrats must be active on the state level as well. As Jamelle Bouie points out,
“It’s a story of escalation, from the relentless obstruction of the Gingrich era to the effort to impeach Bill Clinton to the attempt to nullify the presidency of Barack Obama and on to the struggle, however doomed, to keep Joe Biden from ever sitting in the White House as president.
“It also goes beyond national politics. In 2016, after a Democrat, Roy Cooper, defeated the Republican incumbent Pat McCrory for the governorship of North Carolina, the state’s Republican legislature promptly stripped the office of power and authority. Wisconsin Republicans did the same in 2018 after Tony Evers unseated Scott Walker in his bid for a third term.
“And Michigan Republicans took similar steps against another Democrat, Gretchen Whitmer, after her successful race for the governor’s mansion.”
If you were in charge, what do you think is the best way for Americans to proceed in demanding accountability in this dangerous time? And I hope if you let me know, you’ll connect with your elected officials and express your views to them as well.
UPDATE: Shortly after I posted this piece, the unbelievable-if-it-hadn’t-been-Trump insurrection began in “the People’s House.” I hadn’t heard that Trump had made a speech urging his thousands of rallying supporters to go to the Capitol.
Once again the historian commenters will shake their heads sadly and say, “No; there are no precedents.”
As terrorists broke into the building, roamed the halls wreaking damage, frightened Representatives, and temporarily halted the counting of the Electoral College results, the President was silent. At least one person was shot.
President-elect Biden stepped up and called upon Trump to tell his people to go home. Trump eventually was shamed into appearing. But due to maliciousness and/or derangement, he repeated his falsehoods about the “stolen” election and told the terrorists he loves them but they should go home.
And so, in his final days in office, this man has proven the depths of depravity of which he is capable are even lower than one can imagine. How much more damage can he do before January 20th? Some action must be taken against him immediately.
And when the Electoral count resumes, will those fellow Republicans go through with their seditious acts? If so, are they not now willing accessories to inciting further events like today’s?
There were some frightening signs and statements from some of Trump’s diehard fans. The right-wing “militia” (read terrorists) will be back.
We must hope they’re met by law enforcement far better prepared than those in place today. Investigations into this despicable event are essential.