Trump’s unceasing attack on democracy

Bob Sheak Dec 18, 2020

The following post considers Trump’s nefarious impact on US politics and governance, the attempts by him and his allies to undermine Biden’s electoral victory, and, how thus far these attempts have failed. If nothing else, the post helps to explain how the presidential election process works and tries to clarify how the Electoral College figures into and confounds this process.

2016:  Winning the Electoral College while losing the popular vote

Trump’s ascendance to the presidency is, Ralph Nader maintains, a “once-in-forever fluke,” that is, a reflection of “the confluence of Putin, Wikileaks, James Comey, the electoral college, and racially targeted voter suppression” (Mark Green and Ralph Nader, Wreaking America: How Trump’s Lawbreaking and Lies Betray US all, x-xi). He lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by almost 3 million votes, but the Electoral College gave him the victory, and this despite “a lifetime of cheating workers, consumers, bankers, and wives,” plus leaving Trump to think “he can get away with just about anything” (xii). Susan B. Glasser reminds us of Trump’s besmirched  record, writing on December 11 in the New Yorker magazine (online) that “Donald Trump has survived impeachment, twenty-six sexual-misconduct accusations, and thousands of lawsuits” (https://newyorker.com/news/letter-from-trump-washington/its-not-just-trumps-war-on-democracy-anymore). In their book, The Trump Revealed, Michael Kranish and Marc Fisher write: “Over three decades, Trump and his companies filed more than 1,900 lawsuits and were named as defendants in 1,450 others, according to a USA Today analysis (p. 300). David Cay Johnston reports that Trump has been a con artist his entire life. In his book, It’s Even Worse Than You Think, Johnston writes:

“In The Art of the Deal he [Trump] brags about deceptions that enriched him. He has boasted about not paying banks that loaned him billions of dollars. He conned thousands of people desperate to learn what Trump said were the secrets of his success into paying up to $35,000 to attend Trump University. In a promotional video, Trump said his university would provide a better education than the finest business schools with a faculty he personally picked. Lawsuits forced Trump’s testimony and documents that showed that there were no secrets he shared with the ‘students.’ The faculty never met Trump. These professors turned out to be fast-food managers and others with no experience in real estates, the focus of the ‘university.’ Because of the lawsuits, Trump paid back $25 million to the people he conned so the scam would not follow him into the White House” (p. 10).

 Trump entered the White House as a minority-president, having won only 45.9 percent of the popular vote, with 62,985,106 total votes, compared to Hillary Clinton’s 48% percent and 65,853,625 votes. Nonetheless, in the US electoral system, the popular vote is not what determines the outcome. Rather it is the Electoral College (the only one in the world), which gives low-population, highly-rural states a disproportionate impact in the elections of presidents and vice-presidents. In the Electoral College, Trump garnered 306 electoral votes to Clinton’s 232 (https://nytimes.com/2016/results/president).

2016-2020: In office

Nader points out that Trump survived the tumult and crises of his presidency by “gaming the system,” having his message amplified by right-wing media, with the unquestioning support of “a core of Republican voters who, due to economic grievances, religion, region, or race, comprise an unbreakable steady 25 percent [or more] of aggrieved Americans” (xv). He also had the groveling support of Congressional Republicans who feared how Trump could turn his electoral base against them if they crossed him. But there is more to the story. The Republicans used their control of the Senate to nullify Democratic legislative initiatives for the sake of political power and to advance a right-wing agenda. Trump and the Republicans in the U.S. Congress agreed on their mutual desire to advance a neoliberal agenda to lower taxes, deregulate whatever they could, privatize public resources when there was a profit, continue corporate subsidies, forget about anti-trust policy, starve social-welfare programs. Nader also addresses how Republicans intensified political gridlock: “As soon as the Democrats took control of the House in January 2019, the White House practiced constant stonewalling and disparagement of this coequal branch of government” and the Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, refused to have hundreds of bills from the House considered at all by Senate committees. Additionally, Trump benefited from the conservative-dominated Supreme Court, which gave him five-to-four decisions in favor of his “Muslim Ban and on racial gerrymandering.” Attorney General William Barr successfully covered-up the devastating Mueller Report and “cherry-picked all confidential intelligence…to support Trump’s evidence-free assertion that the Mueller probe will illegitimate.”

At the same time, the Republicans in Congress countenanced Trump’s self-promoting declarations, his continuous stream of often contradictory and inflammatory tweets, and behavior that has been described by mental health experts as exhibiting a “malicious narcissistic” personality (see Bandy Lee’s edited book, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump). At the same time, Trump has used his power, rooted in his cult-like, clueless base following, to intimidate, ridicule, and punish those who challenge his power and reward those who advance his interests, however nefarious. Near the end of their 417 page scathing “insider” account of Trump’s presidency, Philip Rucker and Carol Leoning write: “When Alexander Hamilton wrote the two essays in The Federalist devoted to the idea of impeachment, Trump was the kind of president he had in mind – a populist demagogue who would foment frenzy, pander to prejudices, feed of chaos, and secretly betray the American people in the accumulation of power – according to Hamilton’s biographer Ron Chernow” (A Very Stable Genius, p. 416). And he urges his supporters to find ways to avoid paying taxes, just as he has.

Abby Zimet provides an apt summary of some of the other major effects of the Trump presidency, supported by his base, the Republican Party, along with many rich donors and major segments of the corporate community. Zimet writes:

“George Packer wrote an epically searing political obituary by the numbers – 300,000 COVID dead, millions lost health insurance, 666 children lost parents, slashed numbers of refugees, reversed 80 environmental rules, appointed most “not qualified” judges of last 50 years, grew national debt $7 trillion, signed one, bad piece of major legislation, made/scammed millions, told 25,000 lies that “contaminated the minds of tens of millions of people…poisoning the atmosphere like radioactive dust” – to conclude, “America under Trump became less free, less equal, more divided, more alone, deeper in debt, swampier, dirtier, meaner, sicker, and deader. It also became more delusional” (https://commondreams.org/further/2020/12/15/embarrassing-situation).

Trump has little regard for verifiable facts

And, through it all, Trump lied continuously. Reporters at The Washington Post have kept track of Trump’s lies and misrepresentations over the course of his presidency and counted over 20,000 such statements from the beginning of his presidency to November 2020. Glenn Kessler, who keeps track of Trump’s lying for The Washington Post, had counted “22,000 false or misleading statements” as of November 9, 2020 (https://washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/11/09/fact-checking-post-trump-era). One of the glaring and repeated false statements was that he claimed to have a “terrific” health plan that he was going to release to replace the Affordable Care Act and that it would be “so much better.” The plan was never forthcoming. Kessler also notes that Trump “also falsely said he would protect patients with preexisting conditions even as he pursued a strategy in the courts that could nullify those protections.”

Trump’s core sticks with him

“Through his entire term,” Kessler writes, “Trump is the first president since World War II to fail to ever win majority support in public opinion polls.” He adds: “A key reason is that relatively few Americans believed he was honest and trustworthy, an important metric in Gallup polls. Gallup has described this as ‘among his weakest personal characteristics.’ The fact is that “Trump earned 33 or 34 percent on the trustworthiness question throughout most of his presidency, though it inched up to 40 percent in the weeks before the election. By contrast, Americans were more likely to consider George W. Bush (65 percent), Barack Obama (61 percent) and Bill Clinton (46 percent) honest and trustworthy.” The 33% to 40 percent who believed Trump to be trustworthy are among those who make up his unquestioning electoral base. Fortunately, the majority who voted for Biden in November were not swayed by Trump’s fabrications.

Many in Trump’s base don’t care about “honesty”

Still, Trump received about 74 million votes in the election, up by about 11 million over his vote total in 2016. Polls also find that Republican voters had come to believe that it was important for presidential candidates to be honest. Kessler refers to the following evidence. A 2007 Associated Press-Yahoo poll found that “71 percent of Republicans agreed with this statement. A 2018 poll by the Washington Post found that only 49 percent of Republicans agreed that honesty was extremely important in choosing a presidential candidate. Additionally, the Washington Post poll “also found that clear majorities across party lines said it is never acceptable for political leaders to make false statements. But there was an important distinction between the two parties: 41 percent of Republicans said false claims are sometimes acceptable ‘to do what’s right for the country,’ while only 25 percent of Democrats and 26 percent of independents agreed.”

Fascist tendencies

There are fascist tendencies reflected in Trump’s governance that are not challenged by his base or those who benefit from his right-wing policies. Federico Finchelstein, professor of history at the New School of Social Research, posits that the leader in a fascist movement or state represents what many people at a given time and place yearn for. He writes in his book A Brief History of Fascist Lies: “the reality that their fundamentally authoritarian lies and racist fantasies about the world become constantly normalized and supported by a wide segment of the population, as well as major party figures. Most pointedly, Finchelstein writes about Trump: “He does not lie because he is a crazy cheater; he lies because he belongs to a political tradition that proposes an alternative notion of truth that emanates from the sacred infallibility of the leader” (p. 104). He continues: “…Trumpism represents an extreme form of… antiliberal, and often anti-constitutional, authoritarian democracy with a political rationale of its own. This is a political formation with a mythical notion of the truth,” so he replaces “historical truth with fake ideas about the glorious past that their leaders promise to revive,” with expressions such as “Make America Great Again.” For his tens of millions of followers, he promises to restore to life “a past that never existed” (p. 105). But it must be added, Trump also behaves as he does so as to advance a relatively unfettered, neoliberal-oriented capitalist system and to protect the interests of the mega-corporations, the rich, and his own family’s wealth.

2020: Trump loses the election according to official and verified counts

Biden won both the popular vote, 81,283,098 to 74,222.957, and the Electoral College vote, 306 to 232 (https://cnn.com/elections/2020/results/president).

Claiming a rigged, fraudulent election

Susan B. Glasser, cited previously, writes that the country “had to brace for an alarming confluence of virus denialism and election denialism between November 3rd and January 20th. As devastating as it is for American democracy, it is no longer news that the President insists, as he did in a tweet the other day, that he is the victim of the ‘greatest Election Fraud in the history of the United States.’” Then, in the days immediately following the election, “Trump said that his goal was to ‘STOP THE COUNT,’ ‘stop the steal,’ or to demand recounts, or to discover evidence of fraud.’” Since then , Glasser reports:

“Trump has escalated and escalated, culminating on Wednesday [Nov 9] with a single-word tweet announcing his new goal: not to win the election but to ‘#OVERTURN’ the results. Even more strikingly, while his allies have lost 59 court cases since the election, Trump has convinced millions of Americans to believe that the election was rigged against him—seventy-seven per cent of Republicans now say mass fraud occurred, according to a new Quinnipiac poll out Thursday [Nov 10]—and enlisted virtually the entire national leadership of the Republican Party in his concerted attack on the legitimacy of the results.”

Glasser offers the following examples of the Republican Party’s support of Trump’s failed presidential candidacy and his baseless claims of electoral fraud. Not only have both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy refused to recognize his win; they both voted against a ceremonial motion of the committee organizing the January 20th handover of power to ‘notify the American people’ of plans to inaugurate Biden. In the immediate aftermath of the election, McConnell said that Trump ‘has every right to look into allegations and request recounts under the law.’ Now that Trump has lost the recounts and lost the lawsuits, now that the results have been certified [by the states’ electors] and Trump is openly talking about overturning them, McConnell has been silent” [or did so until Dec 15].

A rundown of Trump’s misbegotten lawsuits

There are many accounts of these lawsuits. Zoe Tillman provides an informative overview in an article for Buzzfeed News (https://bussfeednews.com/article/zoetillman/trump-election-court-losses-electoral-college). Her key generalization is that “Trump and his allies have lost nearly 60 [59] election fights in court” as of December 14, with more in the pipeline. As of December 17, Trump’s lawsuits continued to claim that the president had only lost the election because ballots for Trump had been intentionally displaced, intentionally disregarded or not counted, while thousands of ballots (or more) for Biden were fraudulent and should not have been counted. Consider some examples.

Since Nov. 3, Tillman writes, “Trump and his allies have lost 59 times in court…according to a running tally on Twitter from Marc Elias, the lawyer leading Democrats’ fight against the GOP’s post-election challenges. On December 11, the Supreme Court issued a one-paragraph rejection of Trump and Texas’ bid to invalidate more than 20 million votes in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan.

In a Wisconsin case, “US District Judge Brett Ludwig wrote in an opinion on Saturday [Dec. 12], dismissing a Trump campaign lawsuit that accused Wisconsin election officials of violating state law and asking the court to effectively void Biden’s 20,000-vote lead and let the Republican-controlled state legislature decide what to do.” Tillman points out also that Ludwig used the word “extraordinary” three times in his decision to describe what Trump’s lawyers wanted the court to do and concluded that their claim that the system was rigged against them was devoid of evidence. Ludwig stated that the rule of law had been followed.

On December 11, “a state court judge rejected Trump’s appeal of recounts that failed to change Biden’s win in the most racially diverse counties in the state, Milwaukee and Dane counties.” Trump’s lawyers appealed “and the Wisconsin Supreme Court heard arguments on Saturday. On Monday, the state justices issued a 4-3 decision denying the campaign’s challenge, finding Trump and his lawyers had waited far too long to bring challenges to how the state ran absentee voting this year.”

On Saturday, Dec. 12, the “Georgia state Supreme Court on Saturday refused to take up Trump’s statewide election contest. The state justices wrote that they didn’t have jurisdiction to hear the case because the campaign had skipped ahead and filed a petition before there was any lower court decision to appeal. The campaign argued there was ‘significant systemic misconduct, fraud, and other irregularities’ in how Georgia ran the election, but the justices found Trump failed to show that it was ‘one of those extremely rare cases’ that they could take up right away.”

Tillman finds that the Republican Party election challenges have come in roughly two waves after Nov. 3. “The first wave largely focused on objections to specific clusters of ballots or election practices at the city and county level.” For example, in Pennsylvania, “Trump’s campaign and Republicans challenged sets of absentee ballots — ranging from several dozen to several thousand votes — where the voter didn’t include pieces of information on the outside envelope, such as their address or the date. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled those ballots could be counted.” Other cases rejected by the courts claimed “Republican poll watchers were denied access to watch ballots processed at counting sites in Philadelphia and Detroit; that late-arriving absentee ballots were improperly mingled with valid ballots in Chatham County, Georgia; and that election officials in Maricopa County, Arizona, violated state law by using computer software to verify signatures and may have miscounted ballots filled out using Sharpies. Judges rejected those cases, citing a lack of evidence, or the challengers dropped them before a judge ruled.

One of the most reported on cases occurred in Pennsylvania, where a lawsuit led by Rudy Giuliani was found by the court on Nov. 17 to “lack of understanding of basic legal principles and was forced to admit that it was not a voter fraud case — their claims were based on objections to some counties allowing voters to fix or “cure” absentee ballots with defects while others did not and issues with poll watcher access.” The state court ruled against them, following which Giuliani appealed the case to a federal appeals court. Tillman reports what the appeals court decided.

“Free, fair elections are the lifeblood of our democracy. Charges of unfairness are serious. But calling an election unfair does not make it so. Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here,” Judge Stephanos Bibas — one of Trump’s own nominees — wrote in a 3–0 federal appeals court decision upholding a district court judge’s refusal to allow Trump’s campaign to relitigate the case after it was dismissed.

The Trump lawyers did win one insubstantial case, when a judge in the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania tossed “out a narrow subset of absentee ballots that arrived during a three-day window after Election Day where the voter failed to provide proof of identification by Nov. 9. The secretary of state’s office hasn’t confirmed how many ballots were affected, but the state had agreed to separate them out while the case was pending, meaning they didn’t contribute to Biden’s 80,000-vote lead in the state.”

In the second wave of suits brought by Trump lawyers, “the legal challenges morphed to increasingly mirror Trump and his allies’ lies about widespread voter fraud and wild theories of a nationwide conspiracy to rig the election for Biden.” One prominent case involved, as Tillman reports, “Sidney Powell, a Texas-based lawyer who had earned Trump’s praise for her TV attacks on the special counsel investigation into Russian election interference and her legal defense work on behalf of Trump’s now-pardoned former national security adviser Michael Flynn…. She filed lawsuits in federal court against election officials in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, and Wisconsin, alleging widespread fraud and asking judges to invalidate the results statewide.” In all four cases, the judges “rejected Powell’s claims for lack of reasonable evidence and that Powell’s “plaintiffs didn’t have standing to sue and that the cases were moot because the states had already certified results” and that Powell had been procedurally inept. The judges also condemned “the effort to have courts decide a presidential election and overrule voters.” Powell has not given up. She “is appealing all of her losses, and has petitioned the US Supreme Court to hear the Georgia case.”

Here are other examples of how Trump lawyers have failed in court from Tillman’s article.

“The Arizona Supreme Court on Dec. 8 rejected an election contest brought by Arizona Republican Party Chair Kelli Ward challenging ballots cast in Maricopa County. An analysis of a random sample of ballots showed an error rate that didn’t “come close” to meeting the threshold for a recount, the court concluded, and there was no evidence of signature forgery or other “misconduct.” Ward filed a petition on Friday asking the US Supreme Court to take the case.

“Another new case was filed in the US Supreme Court on Dec. 8 by L. Lin Wood Jr., a conservative lawyer who repeatedly lost a case he filed in federal court in Georgia challenging the election results there. In a 3–0 decision, a federal appeals court panel that featured two of the court’s more conservative judges, including Judge Barbara Lagoa, another one of Trump’s nominees, agreed with the district court judge that Wood lacked standing to bring the case. Wood has petitioned the US Supreme Court to hear his case as well.

“In Michigan, the Trump campaign recently attempted to revive a case it had lost challenging how officials in Wayne County, which includes Detroit, had managed the election and claiming poll watchers were denied access to observe ballots being processed. A judge had rejected the case on Nov. 5, and the campaign opened a case in the Michigan Court of Appeals the next day but didn’t complete the appeal until Nov. 30 — nearly two weeks after the state certified the election results.

“The appeals court rejected the case as moot on Dec. 4 and wrote that the campaign ‘failed to follow the clear law in Michigan’ that the way to allege fraud after results were certified was to seek a recount. The Michigan Supreme Court on Friday issued an order denying the Trump campaign’s effort to press the case there.”

Meanwhile, the certification of state election results goes forward

Voters do not choose the presidential and vice-presidential candidates directly

In our present complex voting system, presidential elections are not decided by the popular vote but by the uniquely American elector system. Here’s how Wikipedia describes it (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election):

“The election of the president and the vice president of the United States is an indirect election in which citizens of the United States who are registered to vote in one of the fifty U.S. states or in Washington, D.C., cast ballots not directly for those offices, but instead for members of the Electoral College.[note 1] These electors then cast direct votes, known as electoral votes, for president, and for vice president. The candidate who receives an absolute majority of electoral votes (at least 270 out of 538, since the Twenty-Third Amendment granted voting rights to citizens of D.C.) is then elected to that office. If no candidate receives an absolute majority of the votes for president, the House of Representatives elects the president; likewise if no one receives an absolute majority of the votes for vice president, then the Senate elects the vice president.

“The Electoral College and its procedure are established in the U.S. Constitution by Article II, Section 1, Clauses 2 and 4; and the Twelfth Amendment (which replaced Clause 3 after its ratification in 1804). Under Clause 2, each state casts as many electoral votes as the total number of its Senators and Representatives in Congress, while (per the Twenty-third Amendment, ratified in 1961) Washington, D.C., casts the same number of electoral votes as the least-represented state, which is three. Also under Clause 2, the manner for choosing electors is determined by each state legislature, not directly by the federal government. Many state legislatures previously selected their electors directly, but over time all switched to using the popular vote to choose electors. Once chosen, electors generally cast their electoral votes for the candidate who won the plurality in their state, but 18 states do not have provisions that specifically address this behavior; those who vote in opposition to the plurality are known as “faithless” or “unpledged” electors.[1] In modern times, faithless and unpledged electors have not affected the ultimate outcome of an election, so the results can generally be determined based on the state-by-state popular vote. In addition, most of the time, the winner of a US presidential election also wins the national popular vote. There were four exceptions since all states had the electoral system we know today. They happened in 1876, 1888, 2000, and 2016 and were all losses of three percentage points or less.”

Safe Harbor day

On December 8, six weeks after the Nov 3 election, is the “generally accepted date by which all state-level election challenges – such as recounts and audits – are supposed to be completed” (https://nytimes.com/2020/12/08/us/politics/election-safe-harbor-deadline.html). By this time, the election results had been certified by attorney generals in all the states and are “considered conclusive.” These certified results will later be tabulated by the US Congress on January 6.  

Jan Wolfe reports that safe harbor day is “a deadline, set by a U.S. law from 1887, for states to certify the results of the presidential election (https://reuters.com/article/usa-election-safe-harbor/explainer-why-safe-harbor-day-spells-trouble-for-trump-legal-bid-to-overturn-election-defeat-idUSKBN2811DN). Continuing, Wolfe writes: “Meeting the deadline is not mandatory but it provides assurance that a state’s results will not be second-guessed by Congress. The safe harbor date falls six days before the meeting of the Electoral College, in which slates of ‘electors’ formally select the presidential nominee who won the popular vote in their home states. A candidate needs at least 270 electoral votes to capture the presidency. Biden had amassed 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232.” After this date, Trump’s chances of overturning the election results become increasingly improbable. Nonetheless, the president has not given up and continues to claim that the election was stolen from him. Trump is now urging congressional Republican legislators in the key swing states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Georgia to come up with an alternative slate of electors to take to the Congress on January 6.

Dec 14: state electors sign off to certify their respective election results

Wikipedia again provides an informative description of this phase of the presidential election(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Electoral_College).

Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 of the Constitution directs each state to appoint a quantity of electors equal to that state’s congressional delegation (members of the House of Representatives plus two Senators). The same clause empowers each state legislature to determine the manner by which that state’s electors are chosen but prohibits federal office holders from being named electors. Following the national presidential election day on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November,[10] each state, and the federal district, selects its electors according to its laws.

“In 48 of the 50 states, state laws mandate the winner of the plurality of its statewide popular vote shall receive all of that state’s electors;[11] in Maine and Nebraska, two electors are assigned in this manner, while the remaining electors are allocated based on the plurality of votes in each of their congressional districts.[12] The federal district, Washington, D.C., allocates its 3 electoral votes to the winner of its single district election. States generally require electors to pledge to vote for that state’s winning ticket; to avoid faithless electors, most states have adopted various laws to enforce the electors’ pledge.[13]

“The electors of each state meet in their respective state capitals on the first Monday after the second Wednesday of December [this year, on Dec 14] to cast their votes, including as well Washington D.C. (3 votes).”

This was accomplished without a hitch.

January 6: The final steps

Scott Bomboy instructs us that “the next public step in the 2020 presidential election will happen on January 6, 2021, when Congress meets to validate the election” (https://constitutioncenter.org/blog/explaining-how-congress-settles-electoral-college-disputes). This final step in the electoral process conforms to a federal law that “requires the states to deliver certified electoral college results to the vice president, serving as president of the Senate, and other parties by December 23.”

Then, as required by the 12th Amendment, there will be a joint meeting of Congress on January 6 “to count the electoral votes and declare the winners of the presidential election.” According to Bomboy, “Any objections at the session must be made in writing by at least one Member each of the Senate and House of Representatives. If an objection meets these requirements, the joint session recesses and the two houses separate and debate the question in their respective chambers for a maximum of two hours,” following a process established by the Electoral Count Act of 1887 and as interpreted by the Congressional Research Service. “The two houses vote separately to accept or reject the objection. They then reassemble in joint session, and announce the results of their respective votes. An objection to a state’s electoral vote must be approved by both houses in order for any contested votes to be excluded.” If legislators from a state present an “alternative” slate of electors, one that is different from the slate already certified by the Electoral College, or if a slate is challenged without an alternative, the vice president, whose role is “to preserve order,” may allow alternative slates or the elimination of slates to be considered. This would require the two houses of the US Congress to meet separately as already described. This eventuality would open up the possibility that the duly certified slate a state’s electors could be replaced by the alternate slate or that a slate of electors from a given state could be eliminated. Either situation would change the overall electoral vote count in ways that could favor Trump. However, this is unlikely to happen, though possible, especially given the time and resources the Trump campaign has put into challenging the election results as fraudulent. 

Senate majority leader McConnell acknowledges Biden’s victory and tells his caucus not to object to the certified election results

Jordain Carney and Alexander Bolton report on McConnell’s “caucus call on Tuesday…and come as House Republicans are eyeing a challenge to the results on Jan. 6 during a joint session of Congress” (https://thehill.com/homenews/senate/530327-mcconnell-urges-gop-senators-not-to-object-to-electoral-college-vote). While “no Senate Republicans indicated during the call that they are currently planning to object,” there is news that there will be objections. On the House side, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) said “he will object as part of next month’s Electoral College count, and is likely to gain support from other Trump allies in the House.”

John Nichols finds Brooks’ threats to be serious, writing: “Brooks has been signaling for several weeks that he plans to lead a drive to object to the Electoral College result when it is formally presented for congressional review on January 6 and quoting him: ‘In my judgment, if only lawful votes by eligible American citizens were cast, Donald Trump won the Electoral College by a significant margin, and Congress’s certification should reflect that. This election was stolen by the socialists engaging in extraordinary voter fraud and election theft measures’ (https://thenation.com/article/politics/biden-electoral-college). It would not be surprising to have other House Republicans join him to challenge the elections when the reach the Congress, reminding the reader that is was only last week that “126 House Republicans, including minority leader Kevin McCarthy, minority whip Steve Scalise, and Republican Policy Committee Chairman Gary Palmer signed on to an amicus brief supporting a lawsuit by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton asking the US Supreme Court to block electoral votes from Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Georgia from being cast for Biden.” They are on the same page with Trump and his ongoing claims of how the election was fraudulent. And Brooks has at least two allies in the Senate – “Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Rand Paul of Kentucky—[who] have already indicated that they are open to backing up this political skulduggery.”

Nichols does not think those objecting to the certified state election results will succeed in changing them, as he writes: “The Democratic majority in the House will reject the objection, and it is likely that the Republican-controlled Senate will do the same, as several GOP members (including Utah’s Mitt Romney, Maine’s Susan Collins, and Nebraska’s Ben Sasse) have been bluntly critical of Trump’s efforts to overturn Biden’s victory.” However, they may well make “January 6, 2021, a chaotic day of lies and sore-loser griping from a president who refuses to accept the fact that he will soon be an ex-president.” Therefore: “Congressional Democrats would be wise to prepare, as their job involves more than merely confirming an election result for the nominee of their party. They must defend democracy from an assault by authoritarian zealots who have made it abundantly clear that they intend to use and abuse the process to thwart the will of the people.”

Concluding thoughts

Trump has not and probably will not cease doing harm to our democratic system. Undoubtedly, the society will be better off without him in the White House. But, given the seemingly slavish support of his base and right-wing media, he may still have a huge impact on the Republican Party, do what he can to undermine the efforts of the Biden administration, and continue to stoke the violent segments of his base.

According to Shane Goldmacher and Maggie Haberman, He has already accumulated $250 million from his “loyal supporters” and “with few legal limits on how he can spend it” (https://nytimes.com/2020/12/18/us-politics-trump-money-future.html). Their sources tell them that “more than $60 million of that sum has gone to a new political action committee.” This is money that could be used to “quell rebel factions within the party, reward loyalists, fund his travels and rallies, hire staff, pay legal bills and even lay the groundwork for a far-from-certain 2024 run.” A Republican pollster, John McLaughlin, is quoted: “Right now, he is the Republican Party. “The party knows that virtually every dollar they’ve raised in the last four years, it’s because of Donald Trump.” His coffers have been boosted, as “the Trump political apparatus has taken advantage of the grass-roots energy and excitement over the two runoffs [in Georgia] to juice its own fund-raising. Email and text solicitations have pitched Trump supporters to give to a ‘Georgia Election Fund,’ even though no funds go directly to either Republican senator on the ballot, irritating some Senate G.O.P. strategists.” Rather 75 percent of the donations “go to Mr. Trump’s new PAC, called Save America, with 25 percent to the Republican National Committee.” The fund-raising appeals have shifted recently from “shouting ‘FRAUD’ to “hawking signed hats and opposing socialism.” The point is, whatever his message, that Trump is not leaving the national stage and will likely continue to threaten the political stability and the democratic institutions of the nation.

At the same time, if the Biden administration and the Democrats can make some progress in addressing the pandemic and the economic and climate crises, in restoring the integrity of regulatory agencies, in protecting the rights of all citizens and residents, in being evidence-based and open to public scrutiny and concerns, then there is a chance that Trump and Trumpism will be diminished. It will take the ongoing mobilization of Democratic and progressive groups as well as effective governance.

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