So you are excited because today is the day that the Electoral College will vote, and you think that it will end the madness once and for all. Steve sincerely doubts that Trump and his supporters will give the Electoral College any more respect than they have shown to every other Constitutional institution.
He promised his supporters that he would build it… a big, beautiful wall.
He made that promise on that very famous first day of his campaign for President: June 16, 2015. People tend not to remember that he spoke of building a wall, because the overwhelming memory of that speech was his claim that Mexicans were “rapists,” and his immensely symbolic ride down an escalator, an apt metaphor for the direction of the ride America would take under Donald Trump.
The wall would become the centerpiece of his campaign. To the long list of powerful three word campaign slogans (“I like Ike,” “Where’s the beef?” and “Yes we can”) he would add the mantra that connected deeply with angry, alienated Americans: “Build the Wall!”
Not content with a concise three-syllable summary of his xenophobia and bigotry, Trump would add a soaring flight of rhetorical excess: “And Mexico will pay for it!” The assertion was ludicrous, indeed downright hallucinatory, and yet defined the brand of a candidate who would effortlessly and reflexively launch barrages of projectile deceit at his every campaign rally.
For years, liberals have giddily revisited this essential campaign promise, decrying the tiny amount of new wall that has actually been built, and doubling up in laughter when Trump said in October, 2019, that “we’re building a wall in Colorado, we’re building a beautiful wall, a big one that really works, that you can’t get over, you can’t get under.” Uh, Mr. President, Colorado borders New Mexico, not old Mexico. So, would New Mexico pay for that one?
Irony incoming, Lefty! The wall in “Colorado” – which is to say, the wall promised here inside our border -- that is the one that has actually been built.
It is the wall Trump has built to keep reality out, and now it is the wall that keeps Republicans in.
It is one of the most imposing walls in history… more effective in preventing open communication than the one in Berlin, more effective in preventing people from crossing a border than the one in China.
It is a wall that is so high and so thick that Trump’s enemies can’t get through it, over it, or under it. These enemies, of course, are facts, truth, and reality.
And now we are witnessing yet another way Trump’s wall corrupts our democracy: his loyal subjects can’t get out, even if they wanted to. The walls are too big, and the price is too high, for Republicans to escape.
The latest metrics of the wall’s efficacy?
In terms of preventing facts from entering, we have a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist survey that was conducted the first week of December, that shows that 72% of Republicans do not trust that the results of the 2020 election were accurate. In total, 34% of U.S. adults do not trust the outcome. The next time you are in a room with ten people, think about this: three of them think the election was rigged, fraudulent, and that Joe Biden is not the legitimate President of the United States. (Which three, you ask? Probably the ones who are not wearing a mask).
But here’s the scarier part: as effective as Trump’s wall is in keeping out the truth, it is even better at keeping his subjects in.
Last week, the Attorney General of the State of Texas filed a lawsuit attempting to summarily trash the free and open votes of citizens in four battleground states, a naked grab at reversing the outcome and handing the Presidency back to Trump. Claiming that the “usurpation of legislative power” in the four states “produced unconstitutional ballots,” the lawsuit demanded that the votes to be cast in the Electoral College from these states should be decided by state legislatures rather than the citizens.
In the long history of the Supreme Court, this has to have been one of the most embarrassing legal turds to ever land on those majestic granite steps. “Now let me get this straight,” one imagines the robed sages musing, “You think we should throw out millions and millions of legitimate votes in someone else’s state because you don’t like the way they handled their elections? You’re from Texas, aren’t you? Isn’t that one of the most aggressively ‘states’ rights’ places on the map? Isn’t that the state that back in 2011 had the governor who talked openly about seceding from the union?”
And so the Supreme Court duly handled this case the way we all deal with used anti-bacterial wipes after a visit to a rest stop on the interstate, dumping it as quickly as humanly possible.
But that was only half of the drama last week.
The other drama was that 126 – count’em – one hundred and twenty six Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives joined this lawsuit in an amicus curiae brief. 126 Republicans in the United States House of Representatives eagerly jumped on a lawsuit so stupid that it left even the Trump appointees on the Supreme Court holding their noses.
It turns out that Republican House member Mike Johnson was tasked by the President with rounding up Congressional support for the Texas lawsuit. Johnson quickly emailed his colleagues, and let it be known that Trump would be very keen to know exactly which lawmakers stood with him. Of the President, Johnson said, “he said he will be anxiously awaiting the final list to review."
Ah, “the list.” Where have we heard that before, Senator McCarthy?
Sure, we all knew that Republican Congressmen like Texas's own Louie Gohmert would spread this toxic idiocy faster than a pandemic virus on a Galveston beach, but the community spread on this one carried all the way up to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Yes, the Republican leader of the United States House of Representatives was ready to heave the ballots of American citizens in four states just so he wouldn’t be beaten in a hasty retweet.
The great wall of Trump, you see, is more effective in preventing emigration than immigration. Once you are inside, there is no escaping. Trump essentially blackmailed members of the House to lend their support to his lawsuit, and 126 were only to eager to oblige. 126 members of the Unites States Congress urged the Supreme Court to throw out the votes of 20,000,000 citizens of the United States, including those of millions of Republican voters.
My favorite part is this: of the 126, four actually represent Michigan, seven are from Pennsylvania, one is from Wisconsin, and three are from Georgia. So these 15 Representatives endorsed the idea that the Attorney General of Texas had the power and authority to demand that the voters in their own states – the states that they represent -- be tossed out. Try explaining that one to the wife, kids, and the local Kiwanis Club. I mean, really – it is as if the New York Yankees volunteered to actually set up the camera so it would be even easier for the Houston Astros to cheat in the World Series.
Do all 126 actually believe that those votes should be thrown out? In truth, I’d be amazed if a single one of them really believed that. Hey, most of them are probably lawyers. No, this was really easy sleezy for them… they all signed Trump’s brief because they knew that the Supreme Court would squish it like a bug. They could stand by, abdicate their responsibilities, let the grown-ups clean up the mess, and never have to worry about the consequences.
It was the exact same logic that enabled Texas Senator Ted Cruz to agree to Donald Trump’s request that Cruz argue the case before the Supreme Court should the court accept it. Yes, we are talking about that Ted Cruz, the one who once called Donald Trump “utterly amoral,” a “pathological liar,” and “utterly a moron.” Cruz won some easy points with Trump’s base by signing on for the mission, all while being enough of a lawyer to know that there was no chance he’d ever have to debase himself by actually litigating the case in the Supreme Court. Well played, Senator… but you don’t fool us. All you proved is that you can’t scale that big, beautiful wall, either, can you?
Ah, but we are not done messing with Texas. The coda is that Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton – the man who initiated the laughable lawsuit that the Supreme Court refused to hear – is under indictment for three felonies. The FBI has served subpoenas on him as part of a contemporary investigation of bribery charges. So it may well be that Ken’s entire lawsuit is just one big, fat, sloppy unmasked wet kiss blown at Donald Trump, accompanied by a wink and a “pardon me.”
So much for
Ken Paxton, Ted Cruz, and the 12 (yep, twelve!) Congressmen from Texas who signed the amicus brief for the bogus lawsuit… it is all just another episode of Austin
powers. Hey, Texas... the eyes of the rest of us are upon you, and now we understand why the roses are yellow.
Yes, that is the type of stuff that happens when you are trapped inside Donald Trump’s wall.
We’ve been listening to it for weeks now, the safe pablum answer from all the Republicans who are cornered. “I completely agree that President Trump has every right to exhaust all legal channels available to him in order to ensure to the American people that all legal votes have been counted and all illegal ballots have been thrown out.”
Ah, such pretty, high-minded rhetoric, they would have you think. In fact, it is nothing but the soaring apex of disingenuous hogwash when they all know that William Barr himself acknowledged that there was no evidence of corruption on a scale that could overturn the election results.
In fact, it is the frightened whimpers of the cowards trapped inside the wall. It is, at best, the sickening spectacle of Stockholm syndrome, prisoners who have fallen in love with their captor. At worst, it is the echo of the shriveled, frightened men who throughout history have enabled the heinous actions of brutal dictators. People who knew what was going on, but who refused to act, believing that their own self-interest was best served by silence.
And does anybody really believe that the Electoral College vote today is going to change any of it?
By today’s end, Donald Trump will tweet that it was all rigged, all a fix, and he will begin a call for continued efforts to undue the election results.
There actually is yet another step in this process. On January 6, the U.S. Congress meets to officially count the votes in the Electoral College, culminating with the formal announcement that a candidate received a majority of electoral votes and will be the next President of the United States.
The President of the Senate – one Mike Pence – must read that verdict out loud.
After the Electoral College results are announced, Trump will begin a frantic full-court press to prevent Congress from ratifying the results. The chances of this succeeding? Probably even smaller than the odds were on his SCOTUS Hail Mary. There are provisions through which members of Congress can issue “objections” to the Electoral College vote. Once again, we would find ourselves in that strange land mass where we’ve spent so much of the last four years -- “uncharted territory” -- with little by way of precedent to guide actions.
Perhaps Trump will demand that Mike Johnson or some other House flunky issue an "objection," attempting to deny the electoral votes in those four critical swing states. Were they somehow able to negate those electoral votes, it would enable Republicans to justify invoking the Twelfth Amendment protocol for settling elections in which neither candidate received a majority in the Electoral College: a vote in the House, in which each State delegation would receive one vote. By those rules, the Republicans – and Trump – would win.
Once again, Trump will brandish the threat of a list. Are you with me? Or are you dead in Trump’s Party, hostage to being primaried, brow-tweeten into submission, unable to climb over his big, beautiful wall and escape to freedom?
How about Mike Pence, presiding over that meeting, in the role of officially announcing to the world that his boss lost? It is frightening to realize that it is Trump’s sycophant-in-chief who must read the verdict. Will he find a way to wriggle out? Talk about a man who is totally imprisoned behind that wall.
Where to from there?
On January 20, Joe Biden will be sworn in, but Donald Trump
will not give in. He will continue to demand that Republican Congressmen kneel
before him and fall in line behind him, as he continues to question the legitimacy
of Biden’s Presidency. From a bunker in Mar-a-Lago, Trump will issue daily reminders that he "really won" the election, and all the people inside the wall will continue to salute.
It is not going to end today, it is not going to end tomorrow. It will keep going as long as the wall Donald Trump built remains in place.
Yes, Trump did build his wall.
Reality cannot get in, and Republicans can’t get out.
And, no, Mexico did not pay for the wall.
The citizens of the United States did. All of us. We allowed it to happen on our watch.
And now our children, and their children, and theirs… they will be paying for this wall until our nation finally dies in a polarization vortex, or figures out how to destroy that wall, once and for all.
It won’t be easy.
It will take legislation to regulate those who profit in the dissemination of deceit. It will take painful, hurtful, honest conversation among citizens who now hide behind media bubbles. It will take a comprehensive assessment of our tax code, our economy, and the inequity of opportunity, so that the grand canyon that separates the haves from the have-nots no longer creates bitter, resentful citizens who are alienated from our own government and wide open to demagogues.
Most of all, it will take a comprehensive re-thinking of our system of education so that we produce citizens who can make reasoned assessments of fact and fiction, and understand the implications of each.
It is all up to us, the citizens, to decide whether we allow Trump’s wall to remain standing after Trump is gone.
Go ahead, America.
Tear down that wall.
“I would build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me, and I’ll build them very inexpensively, I will build a great, great wall on our southern border. And I will have Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.” -- Donald J. Trump, June 16, 2015, Trump Tower
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