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American Democracy in Imminent Danger

 

American Democracy in Imminent Danger           Gerry OShea

The body politic in the United States has been going through a mind-boggling experience since the people voted for president on November 3rd last year. American democracy is in a state of crisis.                  

Prior to the election, Donald Trump, the Republican candidate and sitting president, declared on a few occasions that there could only be one winner in the contest with Joe Biden. He explained – with no ifs, ands or buts - that in the case of Biden getting more Electoral College votes than himself, the result would be bogus.

What about the core value of democratic elections proclaiming that the candidate who gets the most Electoral College votes wins – a system that has been honored in American politics for 250 years? In replying to this obvious question, Mr. Trump merely stated that he could not be the loser, so any vote count that showed Joe Biden winning had to be fraudulent. His own triumph in the election would be the only fair and acceptable result.

Of course, his best-laid plans and pronouncements ran into a major obstacle. A record 74 million people chose him to continue in the White House, but his opponent also secured a massive vote, in excess of seven million more than he did, and, consequently, Joe Biden was declared the winner.

True to form, Mr. Trump still claimed victory based on alleged cheating in various swing states. His advisors, led by Rudy Giuliani, prepared their case to prove electoral malfeasance. They presented their legal briefs before almost sixty judges, including the Supreme Court, but they weren’t even granted a hearing because the bench ruled that they didn’t have a case meriting adjudication.

Then Christopher Krebs, appointed by the Trump administration as head of the Infrastructure Security Agency, pronounced that the November poll “was the most secure election in history.” He was accused of operating with a jaundiced eye by the White House and Mr. Krebs was shown the door.

The coup de grace against Mr. Trump came in early December when his loyal attorney general, Bill Barr, viewed by many commentators as a toady in his dealings with his boss, explained in an interview that he had reviewed the claims of fraud and found that not even one of them had serious substance.

Time surely for the loser to admit defeat and, following Hilary Clinton’s example after her loss in 2016, to wish the new president well in dealing with the problems facing the country. Instead, Trump doubled down on his delusional claims of fraud and summoned his supporters to a mass protest in Washington on January 6th, which he promised “will be wild.” That was the day that the Congress was scheduled to confirm the official election results – a formality required by the constitution. It was a defiant call to action by a man who still had more than two weeks left in his presidency.

Thousands came to this rally to demand a different election result, led by white nationalists, neo-Nazis, Oath Keepers, Proud Boys and Q-Anon devotees who believe that Hilary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi are running a huge children’s sex ring. Trump advised the crowd when they gathered near the White House before marching to the Capitol that they had “to fight like hell” to reverse the election results, and his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, egged them on to “a trial by combat.”

The president identified his vice-president, who was scheduled to play a ceremonial role in affirming the election results, and told his angry audience that “Mike Pence will have to come through for us.” The crowd heard him and some of them constructed a noose marked for use against the vice-president. Later, in the course of the invasion, one of the loudest chants called for hanging Mike Pence.

Video footage of the mayhem at the Capitol Building on that devastating day has been seen by millions of viewers. We witnessed an attempted coup d’etat in wild scenes that eventually left five dead and more than a hundred injured. The police restored order in the evening and the lawmakers insisted on working into the night to confirm Joe Biden as the man who was elected president by the people.

 Mr. Trump disregarded numerous calls to send in reinforcements to combat the bowsies who were wreaking havoc during the siege. In fact, as the chaotic scenes unfolded, his first move was to post a tweet accusing his vice-president of a lack of courage. One of his aides reported later that he was enjoying watching the mayhem on television.

Senators and members of the House were terrorized by the mob rule that prevailed in the Capitol Building. Mike Pence was barely out of danger’s way when the senate chamber where he was doing his job was breached. Nancy Pelosi’s office was vandalized but, luckily, she had been ushered away to safety by the police.

The FBI and the rejuvenated Department of Justice are examining the videos and listening to information from the public about the perpetrators and, so far, over 420 of the rioters have been charged. Normally law-abiding citizens are accused of serious crimes including unlawful entry and riotous behavior.

Donald Trump was impeached for a second time by the House of Representatives but the Senate again failed to convict him with only seven Republican senators joining their Democratic colleagues favoring a guilty verdict, well short of the two-thirds needed.

Some Republican leaders demurred from what they called the “fake news” about an insurrection. Senator Ron Johnson claimed that there were no security problems in the senate side and anyway, the rioters didn’t even have guns. Congressman Clyde went further declaring that the mob that day acted like visitors to the Capitol. Another Republican congressman described the invaders as “peaceful patriots!”

In Maricopa county in Arizona, the senate Republicans there decided that they need a fourth re-count of the presidential votes, so they hired a company for the task with no experience in doing election audits but with strong pro-Trump credentials.

 One of the leaders said that they were investigating an allegation of more than a hundred thousand phony ballots flown in from somewhere in Asia made from bamboos. Another theory being explored suggests that voting papers were eaten by chickens. People who understandably view such statements as buffoonery underestimate the seriousness of the exercise.

Similar re-counts are being proposed in Georgia and Pennsylvania, guaranteed to undermine credibility in the fairness of American elections.

The former president is still preaching about the Big Lie which deprived him of his place in the sun. Some Republican leaders acknowledge the legitimacy of President Biden’s election, but the majority is still clinging to the delusional words coming from Mar-a-Lago.

As part of the rejection of the election results, Republicans have introduced 361 bills in 47 state legislatures to restrict access to voting in future elections. The purpose of nearly all of the bills is to make it harder for black and brown citizens to vote. According to the respected Brennan Center for Justice, these proposed contractions of ballot access are reminiscent of the Jim Crow era.

The big question centers on whether democracy can survive in America. What are the consequences when a clear majority of the followers of one of the two main political parties assert that Joe Biden is not the legitimate president of the country?

 How can we deal with a situation where the core ground rule of any democracy, that the majority rules, is not accepted by the bulk of the membership of one party? We are missing a required ingredient for a functioning democracy, which portends alarming and seemingly inexorable problems for the republic.

Gerry OShea blogs at wemustbetalking.com

 

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