Tag Archives: Hawley

Quo Vadis, Republican Party?

You may recognize the Latin phrase, or not. It derives from “Domine, quo vadis? meaning Lord, where are you going?” and was assertedly spoken by Saint Peter who, fleeing persecution in Jerusalem, came upon the resurrected Jesus and made the inquiry, leading Jesus to tell Peter that he was returning to be crucified again. [source: e­­ncyclopedia.com https://bit.ly/38OcLIG] [Also a 1951 movie title]

I was reminded of this by a, typically, erudite and lengthy essay by Yale historian Timothy Snyder in today’s New York Times Magazine, entitled The American Abyss: Trump, the mob and what comes next. Snyder also wrote On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, a book that should be required reading for every American interested in the survival of our democracy.

A major premise of Snyder’s Times essay is that the Republican Party’s political establishment has two main branches. One, the gamers,

is concerned above all with gaming the system to maintain power, taking full advantage of constitutional obscurities, gerrymandering and dark money to win elections with a minority of motivated voters. They have no interest in the collapse of the peculiar form of representation that allows their minority party disproportionate control of government.

The main exponent of this group’s point of view is the former Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, of the failed state of Kentucky.

The other, even more craven group (my view, not necessarily Snyder’s) are the “breakers,” who “might actually break the system and have power without democracy.” That group is now led by Senators Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz.

Snyder then begins the analysis, noting that to some Republicans the hopeless quest to overturn the election was just political theater, but

for Congress to traduce its basic functions had a price. An elected institution that opposes elections is inviting its own overthrow. Members of Congress who sustained the president’s lie, despite the available and unambiguous evidence, betrayed their constitutional mission. Making his fictions the basis of congressional action gave them flesh. Now Trump could demand that senators and congressmen bow to his will. He could place personal responsibility upon Mike Pence ….

If that doesn’t lead you to immediately buy a Times subscription and also Snyder’s book, I don’t know about you….{I get no royalties; just trying to be helpful]

As noted, Snyder’s treatment is erudite and complex. My own view is more simplistic.

The principal distinguishing feature of our mish-mash American democratic republic with its squirrelly Constitution and three “co-equal” branches of government intended to mutually restrain each other, is that the people elect their leaders. If the leaders fail to perform as the voters think they expected, the voters can elect new leaders on the immutable schedule of elections. AND — this is critical — assuming a fair process, the loser accepts the loss and waits for the next election in the immutable schedule for another try. ALWAYS. The loser accepts the loss, moves on, reorganizes and so on.

If the acceptance of loss, a/k/a the peaceful transfer of power, were to be lost, the entire system, Constitution notwithstanding, would collapse and American democracy would be finished.

As noted, the essential premise of this scheme is “fair process,” and everyone knows that politics can be “rough and tumble,” “dirty,” and other unpleasantries, often in direct proportion to how much power is at stake. But “rough and tumble” or not, the process by which voting occurs must be accepted as fair, meaning each voter has a fair and equal opportunity to vote and to have her vote honestly counted.

Obviously, that goal is aspirational. We have, for example, gerrymandering which alters the “equal opportunity” element by rearranging the electorate to favor one party over another. Since both parties, in a floating tit-for-tat combat try to tilt the system in their favor when they can, the electoral system begins to resemble an exercise in mutually-assured-destruction, a/k/a MAD. And that doesn’t even account for the way in which the Electoral College system enhances the votes of smaller states or the way in which the allocation of legislative seats dilutes the votes of high-population states.

But those are features of the imperfect system that have been present for a very long time. At bottom, there remains, at least until now, the fundamental core principle that the loser will accept the loss and move on.

But, what if the process is not fair, in that the voting or the vote-counting is rigged in some way that favors one side? Why would the loser be expected to just accept defeat, an ill-gotten gain by an adversary with no recompense? Isn’t that exactly what Trump and his supporters have claimed?

No, it is not. The entire system by which the “truth” is determined in our society is based on arrangements provided in the Constitution. Thus, the taking of an oath to support the Constitution is an oath to accept those arrangements. The determination of “truth,” as close as we frail humans can come to its ascertainment, is made by a system of challenge-response-decision by independent courts which in turn have elaborate appeal arrangements so that erroneous decisions may be corrected before doing lasting harm. Like all human systems, the legal system is not perfect, but it is the closest we have come and is far better than a system in which appointed autocrats make all the decisions. And our systems have published “rules of engagement” that all parties must follow, so that the fight in a legal environment is as fair as it can be, assuming both sides have access to adequate representation.

Thus, our system includes the legal system as a fail-safe against faulty electoral process, as regards problems like obstruction of access to the polls, corrupt vote counting and the like.

Turning then to the 2020 presidential election, we first should recognize that the president began complaining of election rigging even before issue was joined with a chosen Democratic opponent. Moreover, through direct manipulation of the U.S. Postal Service, he tried to rig the election in his own favor, all the while complaining about what the opposition was up to. Aided by Republican governors, access to the ballot box was restricted by closing polling stations and other techniques of voter suppression.

Whatever one may say about social media and their manipulation by Trump and other politicians, those media also enabled the Democrats to call out the voter suppression as it was happening. So, it came to pass that the president, in sharply declining popularity as he downplayed the deadly coronavirus and was caught trying to pressure foreign governments to help undermine his opponent, lost the popular vote by more than 7 million votes, lost the key battleground states and lost the Electoral College vote. Joe Biden was declared the winner.

Trump fought back, screeching that the election had been stolen due to massive voter fraud, but only in the key battleground states he lost and, inexplicably, only regarding the presidential election but not the down-ballot races for supremely important seats such as that held by Majority Leader McConnell of Kentucky, who survived a challenge despite having done little or nothing for his constituents. Trump sent a team of lawyers into the field, filing lawsuit after lawsuit, more than 60 cases, many to be decided by judges he had appointed. Not knowing and not caring how the legal system worked, Trump apparently expected his appointees to simply award him victories. He, and his crack legal team, could not, however, overcome the lack of evidence, defined as credible information of specific facts supporting a legal claim. Such evidence simply did not exist. Trump’s case was actually damaged by trotting out “witnesses” who did not understand how vote counting worked in their precincts. Trump lost ALL but one insignificant decision, more than 60 defeats. Even his “house lawyer,” William Barr, putative Attorney General of the United States, concluded that Trump had lost the election fairly.

And still Trump cried “foul,” arguing that he had won the election by a landslide, that the fix was in.  His mendacity was exposed yet again by a tape of his attempt to induce the Georgia Secretary of State to “find” a collection of votes just one more than Trump needed to reverse Biden’s win in Georgia. Never mind that for his claims to be true, tens of thousands of people would have had to conspire to tilt the vote count, a vast conspiracy that both theory and practice informs us could not happen without someone spilling the beans. There were no beans to spill.

And still Trump cried “foul.” And still his Republican enablers in Congress remained silent or engaged in full-throated support not only of Trump’s right to test the legal waters, but in support of the proposition that the election had been “stolen.” Stolen by means and persons unknown, but stolen nonetheless.

That “situation,” created by Trump’s own irrational insistence and domination of his political party, led to the January 6 assault on the Capitol Building in which a violent mob of Trump supporters tried to prevent the final certification of the Electoral College vote count. Trump watched on TV, apparently quite happy with his handiwork. He was a hero to his fans and within arms’ reach of getting the second term he claimed to deserve.

The attack failed, a perfect metaphor for Trump’s presidency.

Trump’s term ends at noon on January 20, just three days away. The nation’s capital city is an armed military camp awaiting a predicted resumption of the January 6 attack in an attempt to overthrow the government and install Trump as dictator.

Time will tell. But what is clear to me at least is that Donald Trump has violated the fundamental and central premise of democratic government. He has rejected his electoral loss and is trying to force himself on the country for a second term.

This then is the root of the tree of ultimate political evil. Unwillingness to accept the loss and move on after being heard more than 60 times in court, and despite multiple audits and recounts, is a  bridge too far, an undoing of norms, conventions and legal/Constitutional principles from which there is no recovery for forgiveness. In this effort, Trump is supported by multiple elected representatives of the people in the national legislature.

For those reasons alone, though there are many others, Trump should not only be convicted in his second impeachment, but he must also be prevented from holding public office again. If you don’t play by the rules, you must not be allowed on the field. The same is true for the other politicians who continue to falsify, fabricate and bloviate regarding the election result. They — Hawley, Cruz, Johnson and the others who voted to reject the final count even after the January 6 coup attempt —  must be removed from office and banned from holding another.

Republican Traitors Last Try to Subvert the Constitution

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.