I am sorry to start the New Year 2021 on this note, but I am unable to escape the news that Republicans, led by a senator Hawley from Missouri, will attempt yet again to undermine the constitutional system for electing national leaders by urging Congress to reject the 2020 election result. https://bit.ly/34YJecO This move, reportedly to be endorsed by at least 140 House Republicans, is, of course, doomed to failure.
It could be seen, indeed has been seen even by a handful of Republicans, as just an act of political theater to appeal to Donald Trump’s political following and to serve as the “first hat in the ring for 2024” in case Trump himself is unwilling or unable (in prison?) to run again. It could be seen that way and thus dismissed as just another act in the political play the Republicans have been staging since Trump first declared the election was going to be rigged against him. It could be seen that way even as Trump himself took steps, through the Postal Service and with the help of compliant Republican governors, to suppress Democratic votes around the country. It could be seen that way even though no complaints of election-rigging have been presented as to the down-ticket Republicans who won elections in states Biden won.
One could go on and on about what “could be seen” as harmless politicking by a group of people with no principles other than winning-at-all-costs, a group who readily align themselves with looney conspiracy theories propounded by QAnon, whatever that is. Harmless politicking by a group of unprincipled politicians who brought dozens of lawsuits around the country claiming, without evidence, that electoral fraud was responsible for Trump’s defeat and who lost all but one (insignificant) such case. Harmless politicking by a president who continues to claim that he won the popular vote, that he won states where multiple recounts found that he lost, and on and on. Harmless politicking by a group of spineless sycophants indifferent to or, more likely, intent upon inspiring acts of violence against, for example, the Governor of Michigan and others.
But, in my opinion, that is not the right way to see this. The correct way is to recognize and, in due course, to act upon this reality: a large group of elected officials from across the United States have chosen to adhere to the blatantly false, phantasmagorical ravings of a desperate and, possibly, mentally impaired, president and are threatening to overturn the lawful and proper election of that president’s opponent. These acts are, I submit, acts of treason against the United States.
To be clear, I use “treason” here in the colloquial sense, not the strict legal meaning that we are often reminded is extremely narrow and almost impossible to prove. https://nbcnews.to/3o6Uyvc Treason as defined in the Constitution, Article III, section 3 is only this: “… levying war against [he United States], or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.” The U.S. Code [18 U.S. Code § 2381] implements that provision this way:
Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.
I use “treason” instead to refer to overt acts designed to, and with the potential to actually, subvert the Constitution, leading inevitably to regime after regime refusing to recognize “elections” and continuing in power with the support of the military and police despite the actual desires of the population, until, eventually, power is determined solely by who has the support of the military. Then, of course, the United States will have ceased to exist in any meaningful political or cultural sense. It will join the legions of other failed countries where the people do not get to choose their leaders. Democracy will be finished, here and, very likely, everywhere. This version of “treason” is good enough.
Political theater and political stunts are commonplace in our past. We understand that a senator standing alone with the dictionary, encyclopedia or recipe book and blathering on and on to prevent legislation from being voted upon is “just filibustering,” something permitted in some circumstances by Senate rules that enables a single senator to halt the progress of legislation even if everyone else in the United States wants it to pass. Nothing like political theater or “stuntery” is going on here. No, the president of the United States and a large group of elected Republican congressmen and senators are trying to use blunt force to simply discard the results of the 2020 election and declare Donald Trump the winner (and possibly president for life).
This action has been labeled, correctly in my view, as a “threat to the republic.” See Michael Gerson’s piece in the Washington Post (https://wapo.st/3oaRmi4),
In the cause of his own advancement, the senator from Missouri is willing to endorse the disenfranchisement of millions of Americans — particularly voters of color — and justify the attempted theft of an election. He is willing to credit malicious lies that will poison our democracy for generations. The fulfillment of Hawley’s intention — the ultimate overturning of the election — would be the collapse of U.S. self-government. The attempt should be a source of shame
Gerson goes on to note that Donald Trump,
rose to prominence in the GOP by spreading racist lies about President Barack Obama’s birthplace. Now, he is making the acceptance of conspiratorial myths about Biden’s legitimacy into a test of GOP fidelity. And Trump has made room in his party for even more extreme versions of his method, involving the accusations that Democratic leaders are pedophiles: “Stop the steal” and QAnon are on the same spectrum of vile lunacy. This is the type of politics that Hawley is enabling — a form of politics that abolishes politics. A contest of policy visions can result in compromise. The attempt to delegitimize your opponent requires their political annihilation. And a fight to the political death is always conducted in the shadow of possible violence.
I part company with Mr. Gerson regarding what should be done about this. Certainly, he is right in calling for rejection of Hawley’s self-serving treachery. Maybe, though I doubt it, he is right in suggesting we praise the handful of Republicans who, as of today anyway, indicate dissent from the Trump-at-all-costs version of politics that Hawley promotes. Republicans, like Trump himself, are all too transactional in their support, so that the likes of Romney, Murkowski and some others still vote with Trump/McConnell almost all the time. They should get no reward in public or political acclaim for doing the self-evidently right thing now.
In my view, what I have chosen to call treason should become a standard label associated with those who have made their choice of Trump over the country, over democracy and over commitment to freedom and opportunity for all Americans. It should be part of their identification in the media along with party and geographical affiliation. Their names should reside in history alongside Benedict Arnold. They should be reminded regularly in the House and Senate chambers that their traitorous conduct has been noted and will never be forgiven. And, of course, every available resource should be devoted to removing them from office as soon as possible, through election and, in appropriate cases, criminal investigation and prosecution.
The time for politics-as-usual is over. To be clear, I am not suggesting a Democratic political vendetta but an aggressive and definitive legal response to overt acts plainly intended to overturn an election judged fair by all 50 states and multiple courts (including judges appointed by Trump). The fact that the effort is being executed in the halls of Congress does not excuse it. There is no excuse. Brute force politics must be met with a brute force legal response. I leave the details to others with the skill and knowledge to do it. Enough was enough long ago.