I believe we need to be concerned about the anti-democratic behavior of Trump in the past week. He’s behaving like a fascist tyrant. Trump and most Republicans have shown us they don’t respect the election results. In fact, many have claimed widespread voter fraud.
All of this is propaganda. There hasn’t been a single case of voter fraud reporter by any state in the 2020 election. They’re suing without cause to create the illusion of impropriety.
We are in uncharted territory. The coming months will be critical to the survival of the republic. We must be vigilant and ready to act.
The historian from Yale, Timothy Snyder, wrote the following warning to Americans. Heed his words:
This election will determine the future of our republic. Here are some principles for the preservation of freedom that I wrote nearly four years ago, when all of this was beginning. I share them again now in admiration of Americans who protest for justice and work for truth.
Democracy is precious and exceptional.
Democracy is undone from within rather than from without.
The occasion to undo democracy is often an election.
The mechanism to undo democracy is usually a fake emergency, a claim that internal enemies have done something outrageous.
A tyrant cares about his person, not the Republic.
A tyrant fears prosecution and poverty after leaving office.
Donald Trump faces criminal investigations and owes a billion dollars to creditors.
Donald Trump has said all along that he would ignore the vote count.
What Donald Trump is attempting to do has a name: coup d’état. Poorly organized though it might seem, it is not bound to fail. It must be made to fail.
Coups are defeated quickly or not at all. While they take place we are meant to look away, as many of us are doing. When they are complete we are powerless.
American exceptionalism prevents us from seeing basic truths.
Biden voters are wrong to see a Biden administration as inevitable. Take responsibility, Democrats.
In an authoritarian situation, the election is only round one. You don’t win by winning round one.
Peaceful demonstrations after elections are necessary for transitions away from authoritarianism, as in Poland in 1989, Serbia in 1999, or Belarus right now.
It is up to civil society, organized citizens, to defend the vote and to peacefully defend democracy.
Dance after the wedding, not before. Take responsibility, Americans.
Republicans endorsing the claim of fraud endanger the Republic.
Calling an opponent’s victory fraudulent risks assassination, as in Poland in 1922.
Creating a myth of a “stab in the back” by internal enemies, as Republicans are helping Trump to do, justifies violence against other citizens, as in interwar Germany.
Persuading your voters that the other side cheated starts a downward spiral. Your voters will expect you to cheat next time. —-Take responsibility, Republicans.
Here we are. It’s the eve of the election and there’s great anxiety in the country over the words and actions of Trump and his sycophants. Trump has consistently refused to even say he’d accept the results of the election if Biden wins. In fact, Trump has been saying for months now that the only way Biden wins is if the election is rigged. Needless to say, this is dangerous rhetoric, which is becoming more concerning as we’re just hours away from Election Day.
Remember, things are going to be crazy tomorrow (and likely crazy for some time), but the election isn’t over until *all* the votes have been counted. There is no law stating that a winner must be decided on Election Day. In fact, the only winners on Election Day are merely projections by news organizations. They are not official; they are not certified. With so many people voting absentee due to the pandemic, it’s going to take some states at least a few day if not weeks to count all the votes. So do not be alarmed if a winner hasn’t been projected by tomorrow night.
Trump told insiders that he’s planning to declare victory if he’s ahead tomorrow night. We need to strongly and consistently push back against any illegitimate declarations of victory. With millions of ballots needing to be counted in several key states, he would be undermining the electoral process. Whether he loses by a low margin in some swing states or is absolutely demolished, he’s not going to concede.
This will be the first time in American history that a president hasn’t conceded an election, disregarding the a bedrock of our system: the peaceful transfer of power.We need to be vigilante and remind people in our circles about the facts.
It is not the time to become complacent after Election Day. In fact, we’ll need to double down on our commitment to see this through. If Biden wins the electoral college and Trump starts trying to cry unsubstantiated “voter fraud” or “irregularity” claims, he’s in effect attempting a coup to hold onto power despite the American people voting him out.
We cannot let this happen. We will not be the generation that let our democracy fall to fascism. This is our country: government of the people, by the people, and for the people. And we will not let it “perish from the earth,” as Abraham Lincoln said during his Gettysburg Address.
We will inform our friends and family of the facts and put pressure on public and private leaders to denounce it. The battle is not over until Biden is sworn in. American democracy is self governance: its power comes from the People. Therefore, we have the burden to not only vote, but to ensure the integrity of the election is maintained —especially when our leaders are unwilling to honor the oath they swore to protect and defend the constitution.
Don’t interfere with anything in the constitution. That must be maintained, for it is the only safeguard of our liberties.
If you haven’t done so already, you need to register to vote ASAP. Voter registration deadlines are just days away. Once the window closes, that’s it —there’s no getting around it.
If you think you’re registered, double check your voter status anyway. You may have been registered, but tens of thousands of Americans have waited in line to vote —thinking they’re registered— only to find out at the polling place that something went wrong. It could be you were accidentally removed from the voting roll, technical issues, an incorrect address, etc. Russian interference in the 2016 election showed Russia probed the servers that contain voter registration data in every single US state.
They will most certainly be doing this again since the Republican-controlled Senate refused to even allow for the election security bills, which were passed by the House, to be voted on. They obviously believe a foreign interference in our electoral process will benefit them, otherwise they would have acted.
While you’re checking your status, also look up friend’s and family member’s registration status. If they’re not registered, let them know and then show them how to register.
The Atlantic’s Anne Applebaum wrote a great article explaining in detail what to do now, during, and after Election Day: The Election is in Danger. Prepare Now. I highly recommend everyone read her article.
Remember, vote in person if you can. Voting early in person is even better. Obviously, make sure you take measures to protect yourself: wear a mask, stay at least 6 feet away from everyone, and use hand sanitizer liberally.
If you, a friend, or a family member cannot vote in person, make sure to follow your state’s guidelines for requesting an absentee ballot. Do it as soon as possible. Once you receive the ballot, read the instructions carefully and then fill it out ASAP. If you can, hand deliver your ballot to your local board of elections or to a designated drop-off location. If you can’t do that, try delivering the ballot to your local post office. And if that’s not possible, mail it out immediately.
Also, it’s imperative that you make sure your signature is consistent with the signature they have on file. We’ve seen this happen in many states where ballots are contested and not counted because a person’s signature changed.
The power is in the hands of the people. That’s what a democratic republic is. We have the power to control our own destiny. We have the power to choose our leaders. There’s truly never been a more important election than this one. Statistically, we have the numbers, but our own government knows it and they’re undermining the process to tip the scale in their favor. On top of that, Russia is doing everything in their power to take away your voice: your vote.
We need to show the world that we denounce this administration and everything they represent. We need to show the world we’re still dedicated to self governance and that we refuse to allow a fascist regime to overthrow the democracy we all inherited. It’s not hyperbolic to say, the fate of the country, and likely the world as we know it, is in our hands.
The United States is in a dangerous, unpredictable situation. Trump, as I’ve been writing about in this blog for sometime now, is a clear and present danger to American democracy. He’s systematically been chipping away at the institutions that are designed to protect us from tyranny.
He’s proven time and time again to be incapable of leading the country, unwilling to represent the whole country, and more than willing to shatter norm after norm on a weekly, sometimes daily, basis. He has no empathy for the more than 200,000 Americans who lost their lives in this pandemic –most of which were preventable had he acted based on the science and with the full force of the federal government. To this day, approaching 7 months into this pandemic, we still have no national strategy or plan.
The checks and balances in the federal government haven’t worked. For Republicans, the concept of “country over party” is part of the old order. Trump is the Republican Party. His campaign literally has no platform other than getting him re-elected.
The stakes for the 2020 election could not be overemphasized. The literal fate of our democracy is on the line. Think of the millions of Americans who died fighting to protect and defend this country. According to Trump, these Americans were “losers” and “suckers.” This is nothing new, just look at how he attacked the late John McCain and by extension, the entire POW/MIA organization: he’s likes soldiers “who don’t get captured,” not to mention his attacks on Gold Star families. When news broke that Russia was putting bounties on the heads of American soldiers, he ignored it. Months later, he still hasn’t said a thing about it. He hasn’t said a single bad thing about Putin, a man who views America as his mortal enemy.
Trump’s an agent of chaos, as we all see on a day-by-day basis. An entire coalition of mental health professionals have told us he’s a malignant narcissist, also known as a sociopath. His former officials and even his family members have spoke out, warning us of how dangerous he is.
Unfortunately for us, his supporters don’t care what he says or does. They’re so brainwashed by their right-wing media sources, Facebook groups, and from Trump himself, they either dismiss any negative information as “fake news” or if it’s irrefutable, they twist and contort it to fit their worldview, completely detached from reality. So there’s no swaying them. They’ll vote for Trump no matter what. He could declare himself dictator tomorrow and it would be hard to find MAGA followers who would have a problem with it.
Trump and his Republican thugs have been actively subverting the bedrock of democracy: free and fair elections. They’ve engaged in gerrymandering, closing polling stations in parts of the country likely to vote Democratic, by literally destroying the United States Postal Service’s infrastructure to slow down mail in voting, by casting unsupported claims of voter fraud, and by refusing to pass legislation in the Senate to protect our elections from foreign interference.
The fate of American democracy is in our hands. We cannot depend on some group of federal officials to save us. The only way out of this is by voting. It’s our civic duty to get out and vote. In 2016, over 100 millions eligible voters didn’t turn out to vote. Trump got 60 million votes and Clinton got 60.5 million votes. We need to tap into that massive group of 100 million eligible voters. We all know people in our lives who belong to this group.
If you know what’s at stake and understand the consequences, you have an obligation to do everything in your power to get as many of your family and friends registered to vote. We need to be more assertive than simply giving a friendly reminder. We need to show them how to register, follow up with their registration process, and help them follow through with actually casting their vote.
The best option is voting in person, obviously making sure to take precautions such as wearing a mask. If you think you’ll have trouble voting on Election Day, consider voting early. If you have to vote by mail, it’s critical you submit your ballot as early as possible.
We need to communicate all of this to our family and friends who may be politically apathetic. Some people are under the illusion that a fascist state can’t happen in America –thinking that’s just something that happens in other countries or not understanding how civics works. If you’re reading this, you’re not one of the apathetic. We just need to convince the people around us that we’re on the verge on losing our country.
Trump has already expressed he’s not going to accept the results of the election if he loses. He just told a reporter earlier in the week that he’ll “have to see what happens.” This is absolutely unprecedented, yet in Trump’s America it was just another Monday.
We cannot depend on Congress or the Supreme Court to work this out. We need to have an overwhelming voter turnout to cast this sociopath out of power. There’s no top-level working group who’s going to miraculously save us. We have to save ourselves by doing our civic duty and voting. We cannot be the generation of Americans who stood by and did nothing. This is truly the last stand for democracy. Once we lose it, it’s gone.
If you’ve ever read a history book or watched a movie about some existential conflict and thought to yourself, “If I was in that situation, I would do x, y, or z.” Well, this is your real-life chance to be a part of saving the country. This isn’t hyperbole, it’s the reality we’re living in. Remember what Abraham Lincoln said during at Gettysburg, addressing a country in a state of existential crisis. Those same people who died preserving the Union and the hundreds of thousands who died defending our constitution –our way of life– “shall not have died in vain.”
It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address. November 19, 1863
This is my last Facebook post. I barely go on here as it is, but I’ve kept it around because —well, it’s Facebook: it’s like a public utility, everyone has it. However, I can no longer be part of a platform that sells my personal data to the highest bidder, regardless of their intentions. Anytime a product is free it means you’re the product, selling your data —your digital life— to who knows what companies and organizations. And I can no longer be a part of a platform that doesn’t acknowledge my personal values.
This place is rampant with misinformation and it’s leading to a population that’s becoming more and more misinformed. People who don’t have the capacity to fact check will see something on Facebook and accept it as the truth. Information is the foundation for a healthy and functional society, especially a democracy. If you don’t have reliable and credible information, you can’t make decisions that are in your own best interest.
Facebook has done nothing to deal with this problem that’s rotting our society. What may seem to be inaction is actually a calculated decision. They want controversy and conflict. Their research shows that it increases engagement —clicks, likes, shares, and comments— which means you’re more likely to spend more time on the platform. And the more time you spend, the more money they make. The platform, by design, is riddled with echo chambers. Regardless of your political affiliation, you’re more likely to only get information that reinforces your own worldview, whether it’s based in reality or not. This prevents people from having access to new ideas and different points of views.
And with everything going on in this country right now, whether it be the pandemic or racial injustice, misinformation is more dangerous than ever.
With civil unrest raging across the country, people in power are inciting division and threatening violence rather than listening to legitimate grievances and encouraging unity.
Civil Right leaders met with Mark Zuckerberg yesterday hoping to have some of the inflammatory posts removed or flagged since they were inciting violence against demonstrators. He refused to take any action, and worse, he didn’t even give credence to their complaints.
The civil rights leaders he spoke with were dismayed, saying “We are disappointed and stunned by Mark’s incomprehensible explanations for allowing the Trump posts to remain up. He did not demonstrate understanding of historic or modern-day voter suppression and he refuses to acknowledge how Facebook is facilitating Trump’s call for violence against protesters. Mark is setting a very dangerous precedent for other voices who would say similar harmful things on Facebook.”
Twitter has at least acknowledged the problem and they’ve put measures in place to fact check misinformation coming from the top. Their opponents call it “censorship,” which is misinformation in and of itself: Twitter isn’t censoring anyone, they’re simply adding a link for users to get the facts on tweets that are misleading or blatant lies. Even when he sent out a Tweet threatening violence against demonstrators, they simply placed a warning label, stating that the content violates their policy against glorifying violence. They still allowed users to view the tweet with a simple click. Yet, Facebook has done nothing. They value their shareholders more than helping their users sort fact from fiction.
With Facebook being a morally bankrupt organization, I can no longer be associated with this platform. If you want to maintain a connection with me, you probably have my phone number. If not, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I bare no judgement on anyone who wants to be a Facebook user. This was something I’ve been intending to do after Facebook got caught selling our data to the highest bidder without any ethical checks on what they were using that data for. However, this past week has been the straw that broke the camel’s back.
So, I’ll be deleting my Facebook account and won’t regret doing so. This isn’t about politics: we’re all affected by these practices in one way or another. It’s about a grossly irresponsible corporation that’s helping to destroy this country from the inside out.
“Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors, must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives. A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy or perhaps both.”
The country hasn’t been this divided since the Civil War. This division stems from Americans living in two separate realities. One lives in a reality informed by facts, reason, and science. The other lives in an alternative reality based on “alternative facts” (i.e. lies and fabrications) and conspiracy theories. This distortion of reality has an effect on every aspect of society. Conspiracy theories are usually subscribed to by fringe groups, such as people who literally believe the earth is flat. However, with a perfect storm of Trump, the internet, and Fox News and company, conspiracy theories have seeped into the mainstream.
There are now tens of millions of Americans who believe Bill Gates is working on a coronavirus vaccine so he can put a microchip into the population. There’s a movement of people who believe wearing masks is unnecessary –some even believe it’s dangerous to wear masks. Tens of millions of people have watched a documentary that claims the virus was not an act of nature but is instead a grand conspiracy by pharmaceutical companies to make money off a vaccine. There are people who believe 5G cellular technology is the culprit. Some people believe China genetically engineered the virus to hurt America (and oddly themselves too). There’s a lot of people who believe the virus is no different than the flu –it’s simply the mainstream media hyping it up. And then there are others who believe there’s no virus at all.
Ordinarily, conspiracy theories are harmless: believing that we never landed on the moon isn’t going to hurt anyone. Yet, when it comes to public health, credible information is critical. The coronavirus spreads from person to person. You can spread the virus before symptoms emerge. You can be infected with the coronavirus and have no symptoms (i.e. asymptomatic) and still spread it. This is why it’s important that people take it seriously. There’s no vaccine and no reliable treatment for the virus. The only way to slow the spread of the virus is by social distancing and wearing face masks. If people don’t think there’s a threat, they’ll continue to live life as usual and potentially infect their family, friends, and neighbors.
It’s not surprising so many Americans are so poorly informed. Trump is the single greatest promoter of misinformation in the country and he’s the president. Most Americans know he’s a compulsive liar, but there’s a sizeable portion of the country (45%, give or take) who still support him, most of whom believe everything and anything that comes out of his mouth or Twitter account. He has Fox News –an entire “news” organization– that echoes, amplifies, and reinforces his lies. If he says something that’s too hard to twist and spin, they simply don’t talk about it.
If people don’t know the facts, they can’t make informed decisions. In order to have a functioning democracy, people need access to credible information. Trump creates and promotes misinformation to maintain power over his followers. He depends on them to maintain his own power. If the press reports on something that’s unfavorable to him, he simply calls it “fake news.” If he says something crazy that was recorded on video, which he can’t take back, he’ll lie to cover up a lie. For example, when he talked about injecting “disinfectant” as a treatment for the coronavirus, he simply said he was being sarcastic. It was obvious he wasn’t being sarcastic, yet even if he was, what kind of leader uses sarcasm during a public briefing for a public health crisis? It’s beyond irresponsible, it’s dangerous. And sure enough, poison control centers across the country received an uptick in calls following his remarks.
Twitter, which is his primary way of dispensing his misinformation, made an unprecedented decision to fact check his tweets containing misinformation. Trump is against mail-in voting. When people have more options to vote, they’re more likely to vote. Since Trump only has the support of a minority of the country, he views mail-in voting as a political threat. We’re in the middle of a pandemic and people need to socially distance, so governors in some states have made mail-in voting more accessible. He spread misinformation through his Twitter account and Twitter added a link for people to get the facts about mail-in voting. Trump was furious. He said Twitter was censoring him and therefore violating his First Amendment right to free speech. The irony is, his response, in and of itself, is misinformation. He wasn’t being censored. Twitter didn’t remove his tweet –they simply added a link to it so people could get the facts on mail-in voting. Trump responded by issuing an executive order that would seek to enforce oversight over social media companies.
Twitter hasn’t backed down, despite Trump issuing the executive order. They intend on continuing to post links to his tweets if they contain misinformation or if they egregiously violate their terms of service. This week a riot broke out in Minneapolis in response to the murder of George Floyd. Trump responded by threatening violence against American citizens who were part of the riot. He called the rioters “THUGS” and threatened to activate the military. He even used a quote that has been associated with the infamous white supremacist governor, George Wallace: “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Twitter decided they had a moral obligation to obscure the tweet since it was promoting violence. The tweet was still available to view with a simple click. Again, Twitter didn’t remove the tweet. They basically put a warning label over it, as they should have.
While Twitter has taken action, other social media platforms such as Facebook have decided inaction is the best policy: let people see the content and make their own judgements. This would make moral sense if the content were based on facts. After all, that’s how news should be consumed: give people the facts and let them form their own opinions. However, when people are being lied to and don’t have the capacity to fact check on their own, they have no way of knowing they’ve been conned into believing something that’s false.
Trump can only maintain control over his followers if they continue to believe whatever he says. The irony is his most die-hard followers are just pawns to him. He doesn’t care about them; he just wants them to believe he cares. He’s a terrible leader but a master manipulator. If there’s something he can’t con his way out of, he just changes the conversation by saying something controversial or outlandish. He knows it will force the media to move on to the next crazy topic. And while everyone is paying attention to the crazy puppet, the puppet master controls the strings for his own personal benefit. The internet is like the wild west. If people aren’t doing their due diligence to ensure the information their getting is accurate, they will continue to act and vote against their own best interest.
“The point of modern propaganda isn’t only to misinform or push an agenda. It is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate truth.”
Here we are: continuing to live through this never-ending national nightmare. After being acquitted by the Republican-controller Senate, Trump has been become more emboldened than ever before. He’s an existential threat to American democracy.
Trump thumps his chest and sneers at his enemies. He publicly shames any person or organization that opposes him. Most of the targets of his aggression are Democratic members of Congress. These members were duly elected by the people to represent their interests. Therefore, he’s usurping the will of the people by refusing to respect and work with the majority of Congress. This isn’t the democratic republic that has stood since the late 18th century.
During the impeachment trial, those opposed to removal reasoned that an election was near and therefore the people should be the ones to vote Trump out of office. This argument was always weak since election interference was the very basis for impeachment.
The Russians are targeting our electoral process again by engaging in cyber warfare, which Trump continues to deny. He knows the Russians are working to his advantage, and since he’s a man without a code, it’s in his interest to let them continue. This is also why Mitch McConnell has refused to even bring the election security bills passed by the House to the Senate floor for a vote. McConnell knows Russian interference will help Republicans and hurt Democrats. And therefore he turns a blind eye to the hostile actions of a foreign adversary in order to hold onto power.
Trump represents his own interests and provides his supporters with the pretense of supporting theirs. A president who doesn’t protect and defend the interests of all Americans is no president at all. He’s president in name only. He’s a rogue, authoritative figure who has hijacked our very way of life —the democratic system that gave birth to this society.
The founders fought a long and bloody war to break free of the monarchical shackles of the British Empire. Since then, we’ve sent men into wars with hostile powers that threatened our democratic way of life. Millions of lives have been sacrificed to protect and defend our democratic way of life. The widows and orphans of the fallen found some solace in the notion that their loved ones did not die in vain. All of that sacrifice is now on the line as Trump and his minions continue to break down the institutions that hold our democracy together.
With Trump’s acquittal, his hostile takeover of the Republican Party is now complete. Their political fate is now bound together. If a political party is unwilling to put the country’s interests over their party’s interests, there can be no liberty and justice for all. The Republican Party is now the MAGA Party and the MAGA Party is Trump.
The Republicans, with the exception of Mitt Romney, have lost all moral authority. The only chance to save this democracy is for an overwhelming number of Americans to cast their votes for Democrats in all 2020 electoral races. If the 2020 presidential election is close, Trump is more than likely to claim the election was rigged, as he did in 2016 when he was unsure of the outcome. Can any reasonable person who follows current events possibly think there will be a peaceful transfer of power? The fact this question even needs to be raised is an indication that our democracy is on the brink of collapse. Let us see that government of the people, by the people, and for the people will not perish from the earth.
As we await the impeachment trial in the Senate, the future of our democracy hangs in the balance. There were two articles of impeachment that were drafted and adopted by the House of Representatives. Once the articles of impeachment are formally sent to the Senate, Mitch McConnell will have control over how the trial is conducted.
The problem now, which shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who’s aware of his foul tactics to obstruct congressional proceedings, is McConnell has already made his intent clear: he’s coordinating with the White House on the impeachment trial and intends to conduct it with futility.
This is an affront to the constitution itself –the very reason Trump was impeached in the first place. McConnell declared he wouldn’t allow for witnesses to appear before the Senate. He also won’t allow for relevant documents –documents the Trump administration refused to turn over to the House– to be turned over into evidence for the trial in the Senate.
Our judicial system is far from perfect, but if the core principles of a judicial proceeding aren’t being followed, how could justice ever be faithfully dispensed? The senators are literally the jury in this trial. They have the collective power to vote to remove Trump as president. If the senators are jurors, then McConnell is effectively the foreman of the jury. Anyone who’s reported for jury duty knows the justice system doesn’t want jurors who are overtly prejudice, bias, or who have the intention of being partial. And yet, McConnell has already publicly stated that he’ll be coordinating with the White House. Trump is the defendant in this trial. Just imagine how a criminal trial would unfold if the jury foreman was “coordinating” with the defense. Imagine how fair a trial would be if no witnesses were permitted to testify before the jurors. And imagine how fair that trial would be if the defense wasn’t obligated to turn over all relevant documents to the court. It wouldn’t be fair and that’s McConnell’s objective.
Just a few days ago, McConnell’s home-state newspaper, the Courier-Journal, published an Op-Ed by law professor Kent Greenfield, saying McConnell is about to violate two of his oaths of office. The first oath being the oath every senator takes: to “support and defend the constitution.” The second oath is specific to the impeachment trial which all senators will have to swear or affirm to: “I solemnly swear (or affirm) that in all things appertaining to the trial of Donald J. Trump, now pending, I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws, so help me God.”
The framers of the constitution understood the seriousness and importance of an impeachment trial, so they included this oath to ensure senators would respect the gravity of the process, ensuring they would analyze the evidence objectively from a legal and moral perspective.
Greenfield warned that “McConnell’s loyalty to Trump should not overwhelm his loyalty to the constitution… All senators should take their obligation of faithful impartiality seriously, especially McConnell.”
Nancy Pelosi, in response to McConnell’s declaration to coordinate the impeachment trial with the White House, has made the decision to withhold the articles of impeachment from the Senate for the time being. Pelosi’s decision is strategic: she wants to ensure there’s a fair and impartial trial in the Senate before handing over control to McConnell. This is her last opportunity to have an effect on how the rules for the impeachment trial will be drafted. If a majority of the Senate votes against Trump and McConnell’s impeachment trial wishlist (no witnesses, no withheld documents), then McConnell will be pressured to hold an actual trial.
Trump and his enablers in Congress and the media have been fervently claiming that Trump has been unfairly targeted by the House impeachment proceedings. They say he hasn’t abused his power (Article I) and has not obstructed Congress (Article II). And yet the hypocrisy is crystal clear: if he was truly an innocent man, wouldn’t they want to present all relevant witnesses and documents to prove his innocence? After all, the Republicans have a majority in the Senate. Why would they possibly want to hold a sham trial when they could hold a legitimate one to show the country their president is innocent of the high crimes and misdemeanors he’s been charged with? The answer is simple: they know he’s guilty.
Congress, as decreed by the constitution, is a co-equal branch of government. They have an obligation to hold the president accountable, regardless of party affiliation. Trump’s congressional defiance is an attempt at not only covering up his crimes against the People, but is also, in effect, a hostile takeover of the federal government. If Congress yields their co-equal power, this is no longer a democratic republic as it has been since its foundation, it will mutate into a monarchy. It won’t be called that, of course, but it will undoubtedly be a government with power being wielded by one man. Congress and the Supreme Court will devolve into little more than non-binding accessories.
This is precisely what Benjamin Franklin forewarned after walking out of the Constitutional Convention of 1787. A citizen, eager to hear what kind of government the delegates had decided on, asked Franklin “Well, Doctor, what have we got –a Republic or a Monarchy?” Franklin cautiously replied, “A Republic, if you can keep it.” And we’ll soon find out if we can “keep it.”
Trump and his shameless defenders have been fixated on the whistleblower since the story broke in September. In the beginning, there was just the whistleblower’s complaint: one source of information. However, once the proverbial rock was unearthed and the complaint was corroborated many times over, the whistleblower’s role in the impeachment inquiry became irrelevant. And as we hear witness after witness testify before the House Intelligence Committee, the greatest political scandal in American history continues to unfold before our eyes.
We’ve heard, and will continue to hear, testimony from members of the State Department and the military. This testimony has been been incredibly damaging to the Trump administration. The whistleblower’s initial complaint of wrongdoing has been corroborated by every testifying witness, as well as the White House’s own transcript of the now-infamous phone call.
Despite the legitimacy and consistency of facts gathered by the House Intelligence Committee, Trump, the GOP, and the right-wing media continue to obsess over the whistleblower. The reason for this is simple: it’s a distraction. The identity of the whistleblower, by law, must remain anonymous. The whole point of having laws to protect whistleblowers is to make people feel comfortable about coming forward when they witness or suspect wrongdoing.
The Republicans know the whistleblower’s identity must remain anonymous, but they will continue to harp on it because they have no reasonable defense. They can’t argue it didn’t happen because it did. They can’t argue that it did happen but it’s perfectly legal because it’s not. Therefore, the only thing they can do is cast doubt by conspiring to misinform the public.
There’s an old legal saying: “If you have the facts on your side, pound the facts. If you have the law on your side, pound the law. If you have neither on your side, pound the table.” The whistleblower is part of the pounding on the table. They know the whistleblower’s identity is sealed, so they use it to conjure up a manufactured conspiracy. They put the whistleblower’s name on their witness list so they can claim the impeachment inquiry is rigged because the Democrats won’t allow them to question the whistleblower. They want uniformed Americans to believe the whistleblower is the villain in this story. It’s a red herring and an appeal to ignorance.
The whistleblower’s role is akin to a neighbor calling 911 after hearing gunshots. The police come to the scene and find a dead body. They conduct their investigation, examining the evidence and questioning witnesses, which leads them to the murderer. The murderer is apprehended, indicted, and goes to trial. Just imagine how absurd it would be if the primary focus of the trial for the defense was finding out who called 911. The neighbor simply reported something suspicious. This doesn’t change the fact that a person was murdered. It’s completely irrelevant how the police initially found out about the murder. If the neighbor wanted to remain anonymous and not testify in the trial, would that suddenly make all the other evidence inadmissible? No.
While the neighbor-calling-the-police analogy is extreme, the logic is no different than the whistleblower’s involvement in the Ukraine scandal. They became aware of wrongdoing and reported it to the appropriate party (i.e. the inspector general of national intelligence). This is why the police have anonymous tip lines and why institutions have whistleblower procedures and protections.
Trump and his defenders will continue to pound the table, hoping the noise will be loud enough to distract enough Americans away from the facts. They will talk about the nefarious “deep state” trying to undermine an innocent president. The real deep state, however, is made up of American civil servants who dedicate their lives to protect this country –even if it means protecting it from itself.
The Trump administration is infested with corruption and has demonstrated time after time that it’s incapable of governing. The administration is refusing to cooperate in any way with the House’s impeachment inquiry. For the Trump administration, this is business as usual.
The constitution makes it perfectly clear that the legislative branch has the authority and responsibility of holding the executive branch accountable. It’s our duly-elected representatives who are engaged in this important undertaking. Yet Trump doesn’t respect the authority of Congress –a co-equal branch of government– which means he doesn’t respect the constitution he swore to protect and defend. And if Trump doesn’t respect Congress, he doesn’t respect the American people. It’s the people who elected our representatives and therefore their power comes from us.
Trump has thrown the delicate power balance in the Middle East off its axis by recklessly pulling American armed forces from Syria with no exit or diplomatic planning. This has put the Kurds, one of our strongest allies in combating ISIS and maintaining stability in the Middle East, in imminent danger. The House voted overwhelmingly (354-60) to condemn Trump’s decision. The majority of House Republicans even supported this rare act of condemnation.
Trump’s capacity for corruption is boundless. In the midst of the Ukraine crisis, Trump was still intent on soliciting foreign powers to interfere in our electoral process by urging China to investigate the Biden family. Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, is currently under investigation by the Department of Justice’s Southern District of New York office. The news broke shortly after two of his Ukrainian associates who helped him with the Ukraine scandal were arrested at the airport with one-way tickets to Germany. They were charged with violating campaign finance laws. Giuliani had lunch with them just hours before their arrest.
The Ukraine scandal hasn’t seemed to worry Trump enough to take a break from profiting off of the American taxpayer. He uses his power and influence to direct government business to his own properties. He’s been doing this since he was sworn in. During the past year’s G7 summit, Trump went out of his way to promote his Doral resort for the 2020 G7 summit. And, as of yesterday, it was announced Doral would be the location for the 2020 G7 economic summit.
All of these events have only happened in the past couple of weeks, just as the impeachment inquiry is at a fever pitch. It’s obvious to any rationally-minded individual that this president believes he is above the law. While any other person in his situation would be on their best behavior, he’s becoming more unhinged and reckless by the day. This perpetual state of chaos is not normal and we cannot become desensitized to it. And this is why the impeachment inquiry is more important than ever.
The process of impeachment must have a mandate by the American people: citizens deeply concerned about the affairs of the office that’s administered with by the consent of the people. Polls in the past few weeks have indicated the majority of Americans support impeachment. However, we cannot rely solely on polls. We need to apply significant pressure to our members of Congress, regardless of their party or position on impeachment.
Impeachment is only half the battle since it’s effectively non-binding. Trump will need to be convicted by the Republican-controlled Senate, which is led by Mitch McConnell –the most notorious and powerful obstructor of the legislative process in Congress. If there’s not significant pressure coming from a majority of Americans, McConnell will do everything in his power to coerce the impeachment trial in the Senate. As the Majority Leader, McConnell has significant power in whipping Republican votes. However, if public opinion on impeachment and removal continues to gain momentum, they’ll be much more inclined to vote to convict. This will come out of self-preservation for their own political future. It’s unlikely most of these Republican senators will be voting their conscience. They’ll be voting whichever way the political winds are blowing. And it’s the American people who control those winds.
The American people will need to play their part. We need to focus our attention on contacting our elected officials, imploring them to support impeachment and removal from office. Calls need to be made and letters need to be drafted. We also need to convince our otherwise apathetic friends and family to do the same.
The opportunity to right the greatest wrong in modern American history is upon us. There’s never been a more important time to engage in civic action. If Trump isn’t impeached and convicted, it could very well be the final shot across the bow for American democracy.
When our constitution was created at the Constitutional Convention, it’s said that a woman approached Benjamin Franklin and asked what kind of government they had created. Franklin replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”