It took 17 days, but the GSA’s recognition that Joe Biden is the “apparent winner” ended the final spasms of Donald Trump’s effort to undermine American Democracy. The good news: the system worked, thanks to the intense commitment of ordinary citizens… and with absolutely no help from Washington Republicans. Tomorrow, we will have reason to give thanks, but there is still so much work to be done to protect our democracy from future Trumps.
On Monday, AstraZenica joined Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech in becoming the third Pharma giant to announce a vaccine that appears highly effective against COVID-19.
Also on Monday, a Republican on the Michigan Board of Canvasses did the right thing, voting the certify the state's election results, which triggered the GSA to formally initiate the transition to the Biden administration.
Suddenly, in this remarkable month of November, the dam of misery that has been 2020 seemed to be bursting, as a cavalry of science, fact, math, and reality had joined America’s battle against the two pandemics that were threatening our very way of life and our faith in government.
Yes, two pandemics.
The COVID-19 pandemic still rages wildly across America as we all prepare for a quieter Thanksgiving, but we do see a light at the end of this long, bleak tunnel. Sometime in 2021, vaccinations will be scaled, and life will begin to creep back to normal.
It is hard to be as sanguine about the trajectory of our other pandemic, the rise of authoritarianism that sets in when our representatives in government decide that the preservation of their own power is more important than the preservation of democracy. For four long years, we have watched Donald Trump subvert our principles, norms, laws, and our very democracy. Yet somehow worse still, we watched as the leadership of the Republican Party allowed it to happen.
The blight of authoritarianism is like one of those raging, horrible genetic mutations that can cause a body to destroy itself from the inside. It is the sad tale of a cancer not being diagnosed until it was already at stage four, a metastatic bonfire that is already too late to cure, and is fated to remain, at very best, a crippling chronic illness for the rest of our lives.
Patient zero for this second pandemic was Mitch McConnell, who began the community spread when he assumed Majority leadership in the Senate and announced that his first and only goal of his stewardship was to ensure that Barack Obama would fail. "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president," McConnell declared in October, 2010. That’s when we all should have been smart enough to diagnose the cancer of polarization, a zero-sum vision of government in which the only way that I win is if you lose.
Trump morphed the disease into a cult of personality, and he has spent four years – and the last seventeen days in particular -- doing everything imaginable to undermine the will of the electorate in order to stay in office, and Mitch McConnell stood by in silence.
Consider that every single one of the following events occurred after CNN called the election for Biden.
The President of the United States, apparently represented by the law firm of Bozo, Doofus & Giuliani, filed over three dozen specious, baseless law suits, all with the intent of negating legitimate votes, casting doubt about the legitimacy of the election, and spewing laughable conspiracy theories on whatever media would afford a platform. MSNBC reported that 37 legal cases resulted in one inconsequential positive ruling for Trump.
The Republican Party specifically targeted voter disenfranchisement efforts in geographic areas with a high concentration of Black Americans, their latest display of overt racism. One of the most senior Republican officers of government – Senator Lindsay Graham of South Carolina -- was caught overtly trying to disqualify voters in entire counties the state of Georgia. He should not simply be expelled from the Senate. He should be in prison.
The Secretary of State, the White House Press Secretary, and a senior advisor to the President were all quoted as saying that they were proceeding with planning for a “second Trump term," thereby conveying their overt contempt for the obvious will of the American people as well as for arithmetic itself. It is a high voltage shock to our understanding of patriotism that the Secretary of State of the United States of America stood on a podium for all the world to see and cast doubt on the legitimacy of the the U.S. election.
The President of the United States fired a host of senior officials in government, leaving some vital governmental departments decapitated, and filling other senior roles with unqualified toadies, weakening our nation at the cusp of transition, a point of real vulnerability.
The President’s attempt to subvert democracy was fortified and amplified by a television network and social media platforms that profit handsomely by serving as efficient distribution systems for deceit. These organizations disseminated the disinformation, the conspiracy theories, and the overt lies intended to undermine faith in the election itself. These organizations aided and abetted an assault on the very Constitution that guarantees their unmitigated first amendment right to spew garbage.
The President remained inaccessible, cowering, refusing to
face questions from the press, and hiding behind his twitter feed to
continually claim that the election was fraudulent and stolen from him. In the metaphoric
denouement of a White House that was mailing it in, Trump left a virtual meeting
of the G-20 to go golfing, and made a rare public appearance to pardon a turkey.
All the while -- and at the most egregious -- the President refused to allow the President-elect his rightful access to national security briefings and vital transition communication, a petty and spiteful gesture intended solely to hinder the new administration.
Finally, the President of the United States summoned two election officers from Michigan, plotting in plain sight to see if he could convince them to undo the will of the voters in their state. His gambit almost succeeded: one of the two chose to “abstain” from the essentially automatic task of certifying that the votes had been tallied correctly. No one quite knows how messy and ugly things would have gotten if both Republicans on the Michigan Board of Canvasses had refused to certify the election results.
In short, the President of the United States had been committing treason in plain sight, and as he did, Republican leaders in Washington coddled their toddler-in-chief, their eyes clamped shut, avoiding reporters for fear of having to say anything on the record either for or against Trump. Rather, they have recoiled in fear of his wrath, pretending that it was appropriate to give a 73 year-old a child’s “time-out” to sulk and pout. And they did so knowing that it meant endorsing his abdication in the fight against the coronavirus, his feverish scheming to undermine and discredit our election, and his destructive refusal to allow his successors access to the funds and briefings they will need to hit the ground running upon inauguration.
For seventeen days in November, Republican leaders reached the epic apex of their cowardice, bowing before a petty would-be dictator rather than serving the needs of the nation they are sworn to protect.
But the days passed, the lawsuits were dismissed, the conspiracies swirled on Fox without gaining traction in the world of reality, the usual occasional Republican objectors (Romney, Sasse, Collins, and Murkowski) spoke up, and then finally, on Monday, one of the two Republicans on the Michigan Board of Cavasses did the right thing, voting to certify the election results.
This apparently convinced Emily Murphy, the head of the Government Services Administration, that it was time to authorize the transition and enable open communications between the current administration and the President-elect’s team.
And suddenly, it was over.
For four long years, the system had been tested to the max, but ultimately, it worked. Donald Trump and his host of flunkies did not get to decide whether he gets a second term in office.
We, the people.
In the end, the intense involvement of citizens was the vaccine that saved democracy.
This was the election when everyday Americans showed up to make sure that their government was finally of the people, by the people, and for the people. This was the day that we acted like owners, not subjects.
Monday was the decisive day that Trump folded his tent. it was the day that we took back our land.
What, exactly, do we mean by “the intense involvement of the citizens?”
More Americans voted in 2020 -- 156,831,480 as of the latest count -- than in any election in our history. That number is a full twenty million more voters than 2016. Joe Biden received ten million more votes than the very popular Barack Obama received in the groundbreaking election of 2008. This is a vital fact to know: there are more Democrats than Republicans in the United States. If we simply get all of the Democrats to vote, the odds are extremely high that we win. Period.
Consider just how impressive that vote count is when we remind ourselves that this election took place in the thick of a global pandemic. Americans voted in record numbers in a year when it took an extra effort – securing and executing a mail-in ballot, or taking the health risk of voting in person – to make their voices heard.
A second measure of the intense commitment of ordinary citizens: 6,800,000 Americans made a cash contribution to ACTBlue in the third calendar quarter of 2020. Those small donor contributions to Democratic candidates at every level of government totaled – wait for it – one and a half billion dollars.
And then there were the legions of volunteers who gave their time and effort on “turn out the vote” efforts, undertaken by mailed post cards, texts, and phone calls.
On Election Day itself, ordinary Americans of both parties
volunteered to work in polling places to ensure that this election was the “most
secure election in American history.” Donald Trump, of course, would fire CISA
Director Christopher Krebs for making this statement, as it directly contradicted his myth of a fraudulent election.
But it would turn out that the efforts of ordinary citizens leading up to and including Election Day were just the half of it. Since Election Day, we’ve seen the naked efforts by the President of the United States to attempt to overturn the results. These efforts are failing, rebuffed repeatedly – not by leaders in Washington, D.C – but by we the people.
Some three dozen law suits brought by the President have been adjudicated, and virtually all have been dismissed as scurrilous, baseless, and unsupported by fact. All across the nation, judges of both parties stood and listened to the allegations of Trump’s lawyers, and coolly dismissed baseless claims.
The system worked, because ordinary citizens have the backbone, the character, and the decency so lacking in cowardly Washington Republicans. We, the people, batted away Trump’s lightweight legal arguments like so much cotton candy.
There has been no finer example of citizenry than Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who has been taking vicious unfriendly fire from his own party for the apparent sin of failing to figure out how to skew the election results to deliver Republican victories.
This citizen – who is, by the way, a staunch, early, and continued supporter of Donald Trump -- has given a civics lesson to the supposedly more senior members of his own party. “It is not the job of the secretary of state’s office to deliver a win,” Raffensperger declared in a stunning rebuke to members of his own party. “It is the sole responsibility of the Georgia Republican Party to get out the vote and get its voters to the polls. That is not the job of the secretary of state’s office.”
It is particularly ironic that Raffensperger is giving his civics lesson in the state that has now become the epicenter of the political universe. Nothing is more important now than the two run-off Senate races that are taking place in Georgia, as these will determine whether Republicans or Democrats control he Senate… which will in turn dictate how much Joe Biden can accomplish in his Presidency. This is incredibly important, and both races are winnable.
Indeed, Georgia Republicans are mired in internecine squabbling and dubious Trump-doting at just the moment and in just the state where they most need to have their act together. Both Republican candidates have doubled down on their support for Trump at a time when the presidents’s approval is sagging and his behavior is embarrassing. Both Republican candidates have excoriated Raffensperger at a moment when he is being viewed as the only principled grown-up in the room. Trump himself appears to have little interest in helping the Georgia Republican candidates. Lindsay Graham stands accused of a racist raid to disenfranchise Black Americans in Georgia. And Georgia Democrats tasted a stunning victory when the formal recount proved that Joe Biden had won the state. It is a huge opportunity, citizens! Please open your checkbook, write your postcards and texts. Bring the vaccine of intense citizen involvement to bear on these critical races.
As we look beyond Georgia, the newly established Biden administration will have its hands full cleaning up the septic tank of shame filled by Trump. The coronavirus, the economy, climate change, healthcare, restoring our global stature, and immigration reform will all be urgent priorities.
But this new administration must find the bandwidth to focus on to the long term battle against authoritarianism in our country. How do we inoculate our democracy from the next Trump who would seek to take our freedoms away? What laws must be enacted, what changes must be made so that we are no longer so nakedly vulnerable that a two-bit con artist could come that close to ending democracy in America?
There must be serious focus on the flaws in our system of government that have been revealed by the Machiavellian scheming of Donald Trump. We cannot allow the rule of law to be optional. Congressional oversight -- subpoenas and confirmation processes -- cannot just be ignored by a despotic executive branch. We can no longer tolerate swearing in presidents who did not win the popular vote. We cannot allow the Supreme Court to become be just a third political branch of government. We cannot allow a would-be dictator control over the Department of Justice, able to weaponize its investigative powers against political opponents. We can no longer count on quaint customs, protocols, and traditions… if we believe that the President should reveal his taxes, it must be made law. We cannot allow polarization to make it impossible to amend the glaring weaknesses in our Constitution.
And somehow, we must figure out how to put the evil genie back in the bottle: we must figure out how regulate mass media outlets that profit from disinformation, distortion, and deceit. In the long term, a renewed investment in education can create more informed, more discerning consumers of news, but we cannot wait for that. Disinformation is the cancer that has metastasized. We must hold media outlets accountable and responsible for the deception they elect to convey.
There is so much to fix.
The authoritarian cancer of Donald Trump, fanned by the pandemic of polarization of Mitch McConnell, still rages. In 2020, we won a battle. We are fighting a war. This chronic illness will no doubt be raging within this nation for another generation.
The only good news is we have rediscovered the vaccine that can protect our freedom. It is a government that is truly “of, by, and for” the people. A government in which we act like owners, not subjects.
We have learned that if we apply the intense pressure of our citizenship, we can prevail. On to Georgia. And then, yes on to 2022, and 2024.
Which brings us back to grumpy Donald Trump, who quit doing his job and is now just moping in the White House – our White House. He is still – GSA be damned -- no doubt trying to figure out what he can do to undermine the will of the American people, retain his power, and avoid the prospect of prison. Hey, Trump, keep pouting, keep tweeting, and keep golfing. Keep pretending that you are going to have a second term. Continue to refuse to concede…all you are doing is proving, once and for all, what a loser you are.
Keep sending out angry, deranged tweets… we’ll make sure everyone in Georgia sees them, and we’ll keep reminding Georgians how tightly the two Republican Senate candidates are bound to you.
Sit there and sulk. We don’t care. Joe Biden has already moved on. He’s focused on saving the country.
Yes, Trump, you are entitled to sit in your bitter little funk in your lonely White House bunker until noontime on January 20.
That’s the day when the people channel Harrison Ford in that great final scene of Air Force One.
We’ll be happy to give you that last shove.
Hey Trump! Get out of our house!
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