Tag Archives: Kevin McCarthy

QAnon and the New McCarthyism

mccarthyism (the kevin variant) n. 1. the behavior of a craven, amoral politician eager to advance his or her political career at the expense of the security and safety of the nation. 

2. The antithesis of patriotism.

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“I think it would be helpful if you could hear exactly what she told all of us — denouncing Q-on, I don’t know if I say it right, I don’t even know what it is,” House Minority Leader  Kevin McCarthy (Q-Calif.) said after he defended the bigoted, conspiracy theorist freshman Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (Q-Ga.) for her heinous remarks and actions. His defense is a classic example of the new McCarthyism.

Nice try, Representative McCarthy, but pulling the old Trumpian dodge — “I know nothing about QAnon” — will not get you off the hook. Here is the problem with that formulation, Mr. Minority Leader: The rest of us know enough about QAnon and its loony conspiracies to condemn it. And, here is another problem, Mr. Craven Politician: You are on tape, on FOX News last August, condemning QAnon. “Let me be very clear: There is no place for QAnon in the Republican Party. I do not support it,” you said then. I know you do not have a reputation as the sharpest knife in the drawer, but surely, Mr. McCarthy, your memory is better than that. But, selective amnesia is a part of the new McCarthyism.

Of course, the gyrations of the Republican House leader on Greene reflect the state of today’s Republican Party. There may have been no place for QAnon in the Republican Party six months ago, but, today, McCarthy and the bulk of the Republican House caucus are more than willing to carve out a spot for her, with some members giving her a standing ovation at a contentious meeting Wednesday night. Think about that: Republicans in the House gave a standing ovation to a colleague who wants Speaker Nancy Pelosi assassinated. The reasons are simple: Greene mirrors the views of millions of voters to whom the party appeals, and she is close to former president Donald Trump. Greene may hold idiotic notions, but she is savvy enough to know when to invoke Trump’s name, which she did last weekend as the furor over her intensified. “I had a great call with my all time favorite POTUS, President Trump! I’m so grateful for his support,” the QAnon lawmaker tweeted. 

It is hard to see this McCarthyist cowardice as a winning strategy. Republican loyalty to Trump led to the party losing the White House, the House, and the Senate after controlling all three in 2017. Sure, a public vote to remove Greene from her committee assignments might result in a primary challenge against a member from someone even further out in la-la land, but what is the value in staving off a primary challenge only to lose in the general election?

Actually, many Senate Republicans understand the danger of hooking the party to QAnon. “Loony lies and conspiracy theories are cancer for the Republican Party and the country,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. The second-ranking Republican in the Senate, John Thune of South Dakota, asked whether Republicans “want to be the party of limited government… or do they want to be the party of conspiracy theories and QAnon? (The Senator might want to withdraw the question as he might not want to hear the answer.) Utah Senator Mitt Romney said, “Our big tent is not large enough to both accommodate conservatives and kooks.” 

Many Senate Republicans know Greene spells disaster for the Republican Party. Already, the Democratic Party is running an advertising campaign making Greene the face of the GOP. But, Senate Republican condemnation of Greene rings hollow given the party’s past tolerance of Trump’s lies and embrace of conspiracy theories. Remember, Trump came to political prominence pushing “birtherism.” Along the way, he claimed Senator Ted Cruz’s father helped assassinate John Kennedy; Barack Obama founded the Islamic State; TV anchor Joe Scarborough, when a congressman, murdered one of his staffers, and many more “looney lies.” Trump’s penchant for conspiracy theories culminated in the big lie of a stolen election in 2020 that led to the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, 2021.

The dynamic in the House is different. Republicans in the lower chamber refused to take any action against Greene, settling, instead, for a tortured McCarthyist statement from their leader in which McCarthy said Greene’s “past comments now have much greater meaning. Marjorie recognized this in our conversation. I hold her to her word, as well as her actions going forward” before pivoting to attacking the Democrats for wanting to more effectively rebuke the Georgia representative. House Republicans assume a racist, anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist who has not apologized for any of her assaults on decency will behave decorously in the future. Good luck with that!

Republicans also took up the future of Representative Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the third-ranking House Republican. Cheney, a consistent conservative, ran afoul of the Trumpistas in the party for voting to impeach Trump for instigating the Capitol riot. Cheney survived by a vote of 145 to 61, but only, one suspects, because the vote was secret. On the open vote Thursday on removing Greene from House committees, only 11 Republicans voted in the affirmative. The vast majority of Republicans were unmoved by the emotional appeal of Majority Leader Steny Hoyer who displayed a picture of Greene posing with an assault rifle juxtaposed with photos of three progressive Democratic congresswomen of color above a caption, “The Squad’s Worst Nightmare.” “When you take this vote, imagine your faces on this poster,” Hoyer said to his Republican colleagues. “Imagine it’s a Democrat with an AR-15. Imagine what your response would be.”

The cowardice of the new McCarthyism is unfathomable. Just two years ago, McCarthy stripped Iowa Representative Steve King of his committee appointments because of his history of white supremacist remarks. Odious as King’s racism was, it seems tame compared to the egregious behavior of Marjorie Taylor Greene. But, according to the new McCarthyism, it is acceptable for members of the United States House of Representatives to threaten other members on the other side of the aisle with assault rifles.

Fortunately, at least for now, the Democrats have a majority in the House.

Posted February 5, 2021

The Republican Party is a Terrorist Organization

The Republican Party is a terrorist organization, unwilling, apparently, to convict a known terrorist for inciting insurrection, unwilling, evidently, to purge terrorists within its ranks, and, unwilling, ostensibly, to condemn the lies that aid and abet terrorism. It pains me to conclude that one of our nation’s two major political parties is a terrorist organization, but facts are facts. 

The Senate vote Tuesday on the constitutionality of proceeding with the trial of former president Donald Trump signals that the proceedings likely will end with Trump’s acquittal on the charge of inciting the January 6 riot at the Capitol. The evidence against Trump is overwhelming, and more emerges almost daily. His constant lies about electoral fraud and his tweets urging his followers to come to Washington to contest the certification of electors along with his speech just prior to the mob storming the Capitol prove his culpability. But, 45 of the 50 Republican Senators agreed with Senator Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, that there is no constitutional basis for trying a former president.

Most constitutional scholars disagree, and precedents exist for the impeachment and trial of officials who no longer hold office. Democrats believe a trial is justified, arguing that Trump must be held accountable for his role in the riot. Conviction also can be followed by a vote to bar Trump from ever holding office again. 

By raising a bogus constitutional issue, Republicans have given themselves a public relations out for voting to acquit. They can get credit among hard-core Trumpistas for not voting against their cult hero, while saying to more moderate Republicans that they merely acted on constitutional grounds without assessing Trump’s guilt. As a political dodge, the argument on constitutionality may work; from a moral perspective, any vote to acquit puts the Republican Party on the side of terrorists. Historical accountability will be severe for the GOP.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has played his usual duplicitous role in the run up to the Senate trial. After the January 6 riot, McConnell announced that Trump had “provoked” the mob, suggesting he favored impeachment. But, in the week after the House impeached Trump on January 13, while he was still majority leader, McConnell refused to reconvene the Senate, guaranteeing that the trial would occur after Trump left office and paving the way for Paul’s cynical constitutional gambit.

I suppose it is conceivable for a senator to vote against the constitutionality of a trial and then turn around and vote to convict Trump. A public official may have constitutional qualms about an issue, but once the question of constitutionality is resolved by the appropriate authority, that official must do his duty according to the law. Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman, who is not running for reelection in 2022, but still voted with the majority of Republicans against going to trial, says, “But I’ve not made me mind up, I’m a juror.” But, it is going to be a heavy lift for Democrats to persuade at least 17 Republicans to vote for convicting Trump.

Republicans condoning terrorism goes beyond the Senate vote. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who said Trump “bears responsibility” for the attack on the Capitol, traveled to Florida Thursday to grovel before Trump in an attempt to mend relations. It may be one thing for Republicans in the Senate to vote to acquit on the spurious argument that a trial of a former president is divisive, but it is quite another to actually cozy up to Trump-the-terrorist. Apparently, congressional Republicans believe placating Trump is the key to winning elections. “We cannot take the House and the Senate back without his help. That’s just a fact,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina. Of course, with Trump in the White House, Republicans lost the House in 2018, and with Trump at the head of the ticket, Republicans lost the presidency and the Senate in 2020. That is a whole lot of help, Senator!

McCarthy seems amenable to rewarding terrorists. He placed Representative Majorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who identifies with the QAnon cult and refers to deadly school shootings as “false-flag” operations by gun-control advocates, on the House Education and Labor Committee. Greene should be condemned, not rewarded, by the House GOP leadership for liking a comment on her Facebook page saying “a bullet to the head would be quicker” in removing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Greene also liked comments about executing FBI agents, who she believes are part of the “deep state” working against Trump. Urging the assassination of the speaker and the execution of agents of the federal government are terrorist acts. Greene should be removed from all House posts, and Republicans should purge her from the party. Action should be taken against other terrorists within Republican ranks, such as Alabama Representative Mo Brooks, who said, at the rally before the storming of the Capitol, that January 6 was the day “American patriots start… kicking ass.” Similarly, some form of punishment is warranted for those members of Congress who encouraged and may have aided the mob.

Republicans have been complicit spreading lies that fuel terrorist acts. House and Senate Republicans did Trump’s bidding by lying about electoral fraud. Eight Republican senators and two-thirds of the Republican House caucus voted to overturn the election results in Arizona and Pennsylvania after the riot that endangered them. All but 10 Republicans voted against impeaching Trump, despite evidence that his actions put their lives at risk on January 6. 

Utah Republican Senator Mitt Romney harshly condemned his colleagues for failing to disown the lies about electoral fraud. “I say, first of all, have you gone out publicly and said that there was not widespread voter fraud that Joe Biden is the legitimate president of the United States?” the former presidential candidate asked. “If you said that, then I’m happy to listen to you talk about other things that might inflame anger and divisiveness.” But, Romney asserts, do not claim a trial or condemnation of terrorists within the Republican Party is divisive, while continuing to spread lies.

Republicans must hold Trump accountable for his role in the terrorist attack on the our nation’s Capitol, condemn the terrorists in their ranks, and repudiate their own lies about the election. Failure to do so brands the Republican Party as a terrorist organization.

Posted January 29, 2021

Call for Unity

Donald Trump left the White House several hours before Joe Biden was sworn in Wednesday, January 20, 2021, as the nation’s 46th president. A small person to the end, Trump broke a long-standing tradition by declining to attend his successor’s inauguration. Just as well, as the presence of former presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama testified to the sanctity of the American tradition of the peaceful transfer of power while highlighting Trump’s petulant refusal to concede he lost.

Biden’s Inaugural Address was a clarion call to unity, asking Americans to put aside “this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal.” But, Biden uttered more than platitudes. The president also called upon America to live up to its core values of truth, equality, justice, and acceptance of diversity of opinion. “Every disagreement doesn’t have to be a cause for total war,” Biden said. 

The new president’s appeal to our “better angels” contrasted with his predecessor’s constant stoking of division, distrust, and hatred. Other contrasts between Biden and Trump were the evident openness of the new administration — the new press secretary briefed Wednesday evening — and the eagerness of those at the top to get down to work. Biden signed several executive orders only hours after becoming president, and Vice President Kamala Harris presided over the swearing-in of three new senators in her role as President of the Senate. Trump always showed little interest in actually being president, in the work of the presidency, and in the weeks following his electoral defeat he did little but stew, lie about the validity of the election, play golf, and issue pardons to his cronies.

There is evidence that the sway of Trumpism is diminishing. The Proud Boys, the far-right group asked by Trump at the first debate with Biden to “stand back and stand by,” is rethinking its undying loyalty to the former president. After the election, the Proud Boys wrote in an online message on a private channel “Hail Emperor Trump.” But, as soon as Trump departed the White House, the White-supremacist group referred to him as a “shill” and “extraordinarily weak.” It may be a positive sign that no militias descended on Washington, D.C., and state capitols and no anti-Biden protests occurred, despite warnings from the FBI of the potential for violence and the threats of far-right activists to mobilize in the days leading up to the Inauguration.

One place where divisiveness still lingers is the Capitol. Biden is quite right to call for unity and to appeal for bipartisan cooperation, which may occur as some Republicans search for ways to work with Democrats on much needed legislation, such as economic relief from the ravages of the pandemic and rebuilding the nation’s decrepit infrastructure.

While unity and bipartisan cooperation is a worthy goal, some accountability is needed for those who worked to undermine American democracy by pushing the “big lie” of election fraud. That there was no significant fraud and that Biden fairly won election as the next president was evident immediately after November 3. Yet, a significant bloc of Republican senators and a majority of the House GOP caucus voted against certifying the electoral returns of two states. They did so only hours after a mob — encouraged by Trump and congressional opposition to certification — stormed the Capitol, putting the lives of members of Congress in jeopardy.

The United States cannot pretend this did not happen. Obviously, we will never forget those frightful images of insurrectionists desecrating the “people’s house.” But, we also must never forget the role played by prominent Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is a case in point. Two weeks ago, McCarthy was a prominent challenger of Biden’s victory, telling constituents, “I agreed with objections that were made to two states.” Yet, Wednesday, McCarthy had the temerity, the gall, the nerve to stand in Statuary Hall and tell Biden and Harris he was “very proud of you both.” The California Republican added, “I listened to your [Biden’s] speech today. You talked about tension and division. Our task as leaders is to bind this nation’s wounds and dedicate ourselves to the values that all Americans hold dear.”

Not too proud, evidently, to vote against Biden’s and Harris’ certification as president and vice president. Politics is not a profession that emphasizes self-introspection, but really, Mr. Minority Leader, how lacking in self-awareness can you be? On Inaugural Day, McCarthy also said, “As leaders, we are judged not by our words, but by our actions.” Indeed! Mr. Minority Leader, your action in objecting to electoral certification before and just after the insurrection of January 6 speaks much louder than those words you spoke on Inaugural Day!

McCarthy is not the only Republican who requires scrutiny. Senators Josh Hawley of Missouri and Ted Cruz of Texas fanned the flames of insurrection by their words and actions. Illinois Democratic Senator Dick Durbin called the behavior of Hawley and Cruz “inexcusable” and said the Senate must  “seriously” investigate their actions. Some Republicans in the House may have given aid to the mob before and during the storming of the Capitol. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said “there will be prosecutions” if evidence shows that members of Congress “aided and abetted an insurrection in which people died.”

Public understanding of the role of elected officials in undermining the peaceful transfer of power — a bedrock of republican government — needs to occur not because Americans are vengeful but because knowledge is the most effective tool for preventing future betrayals. We know that lies — deliberate lies told by people who knew better or ought to have known better — unleashed the mob on the Capitol. The only way to fight lies is with truth and the truth will only emerge when the culprits are named and their abettors come to grips with their betrayal of constitutional government. Only then will the unity of which President Biden spoke truly occur. 

Posted January 22, 2021

“It Has To Stop”

It has all gone too far. All of it…. It has to stop. — Gabriel Sterling, a Republican who is Georgia’s voting system implementation manager, referring to death threats against election officials.

I am writing these words on December 7, 2020, the 79th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, one of the darkest days in American history. Our nation has had other dark days: The British burning Washington during the War of 1812; President Abraham Lincoln declaring “the bottom is out of the tub” in January 1862, a low point in the Civil War when saving the Union appeared nearly impossible; and September 11, 2001. America survived those attacks, often coming out stronger. 

Today, American democracy is under attack, not from a foreign adversary, but from the president of the United States, aided by sycophantic Republicans in Congress and by tens of millions of Trump’s supporters who believe (or want to believe) that he won an election he clearly lost — by a wide margin. This is unprecedented in American history; it is corrosive to democracy. And, in the words of Gabriel Sterling, it has to stop.

Joe Biden won the election: He received seven-million votes more than President Donald Trump, and he has an insurmountable lead in the Electoral College. Yet, five weeks after the election, only 27 congressional Republicans will refer to Biden by his title: President-elect. Two Republicans actually believe Trump won; the other 220 GOP members of the Senate and the House — 88 percent of Republicans serving in Congress — refuse to say who won.

What is wrong with these elected officials? They hold a sacred trust, and they swore an oath to uphold the Constitution; yet they passively and cowardly are bending to the will of a pathological leader who refuses to accept reality. Everyone is familiar with Trump’s demons, narcissism, and fears (as in he may go to jail if he returns to private life). But, what drives the 222 Republicans in Congress who willingly participate in Trump’s alternate universe? Fear of electoral defeat? Perhaps, but, really, Republicans — from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to the lowest backbenchers — do you want to serve in a Congress after American democracy is destroyed? One thing can be predicted: If Trump prevails in his coup d’état, the American Congress will resemble the Roman Senate after the Emperor Augustus overthrew the Roman Republic: A sinecure for the wealthy and aristocratic, devoid of any power or influence. 

Perhaps these cowardly Republicans think they can let Trump salve his ego, because in the end Biden will be inaugurated and life will return to normal. Will it? Remember McConnell and McCarthy and all the rest of you: Trump received 73-million votes and a majority of those Trump voters — more than 60 percent in polls — believe the election was rigged. That translates into a frightening number of Americans who are convinced that this election — and, perhaps, by extension, all elections — are not to be trusted. Our Constitution lays out the framework for a system of government, but the survival of that system rests on the belief by virtually all members of the body politic that the system is fair, that laws prevail, and that the manner of choosing our leaders is honest. Democracy cannot endure when millions believe the system is corrupt.

Twice last week, Trump launched lie-filled rants claiming he won a landslide victory. He released a 46-minute diatribe on Facebook, taped in a White House room without an audience, and in an appearance in Valdosta, Georgia, Saturday night, ostensibly on behalf of two Republican senatorial candidates in next month’s runoff election but which was all about him, Trump erected an alternate reality. In Trump’s universe, millions of votes were illegally cast and election officials — Democratic and Republican — are in cahoots with “deep state” actors to steal the election. It is, of course, Trump who is trying to steal the election by overturning the will of the American electorate. This past weekend, Trump went so far as to appeal to Georgia Republican Governor Brian Kemp, a loyal Trumpista in the past, to call the Georgia legislature into special session to appoint friendly electors. Kemp has no authority to fulfill Trump’s outrageous request. 

Much has been made of state and local Republican officials who have rebuffed Trump and certified election results, as did Kemp in his refusal to ignore Georgia law and call the legislature into session. These officials have been contrasted with congressional Republicans, who have been obsequious in their refusal to acknowledge reality. While there certainly have been Republicans whose bravery should be recognized, it is also true that these local and state officials are merely obeying the law. They have no discretion in the matter. Most of their decisions in certifying Biden’s victory and ignoring Trump’s outrageous requests are dictated by law. The same goes for judges — whether Republican or Democratic appointees to the bench — who have thrown out of court the vast majority of Trump’s lawsuits because they have no basis in fact. A plaintiff cannot go into court without evidence and hope to win. And, a plaintiff certainly cannot lie to a judge.

Sterling, in his remarkable appearance last week demanding an end to lies about the election, cited several instances of threatened violence against election officials. “Stop inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence.” Sterling said. “Someone is going to get hurt, someone is going to get shot, someone is going to get killed. And it’s not right.” Sterling mentioned a 20-year-old contractor for a voting system company targeted by someone who hung a noose and said the young man should be executed for treason for performing a routine part of a routine job. Sterling castigated Joseph diGenova, a lawyer for the Trump campaign, for calling for the shooting of Chris Krebs, a federal cybersecurity official who vouched that the election was fair. (Krebs was fired by Trump for the sin of honesty.) Sterling said he has been threatened and his emails hacked. Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, responsible for running the state’s elections, was targeted by an armed, obscenity-spewing mob outside her home after she and her four-year-old son decorated for Christmas. And, a caller told a Black Democratic Michigan lawmaker that she should be lynched. 

Yes, this campaign of misinformation has to stop before someone gets hurt. It has to stop before irreparable damage is done to American democracy (if that has not happened already). Unfortunately, Trump will not go away after Biden is inaugurated. He will continue to spew his lies, undermining Biden’s legitimacy, just as he attempted to undermine President Barack Obama’s administration with the racist “birther” conspiracy.

Trump will leave the White House on January 20, 2020, but he is paving the way for future demagogues who will not uphold the Constitution and democratic norms. We will probably escape for now. Who knows what happens the next time?

That is why, as Gabriel Sterling said, it has to stop!

Posted December 8, 2020

A Coincidence?

It started in July 2016, a little over three months before the November presidential election, when then-candidate Donald Trump said, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing” from Hillary Clinton’s private account that she used while secretary of state. The same day, the Russians broke into the servers Clinton used. A coincidence?

Eight weeks before the 2020 presidential election, a new intelligence bulletin issued by the Department of Homeland Security accuses Russia of seeking “to undermine public trust in the electoral process” by spreading false claims about possible fraud in mail-in voting that echo similar public statements by President Trump and Attorney General William Barr. Both Trump and Barr say voting by mail is not trustworthy and warn of the possibility of widespread fraud in the coming November elections. Another coincidence?

The DHS document says Russian actors “are likely to promote allegations of corruption, system failure, and foreign malign interference to sow distrust” in democratic processes and the results of elections. These false claims are spread through an interlocking network of Russian state-controlled media, proxy websites, and social media trolls. According to The Washington Post, the intelligence behind the bulletin has been assessed as credible. The information was deemed important enough to share in an unclassified form last week with state and local officials as a warning that they should take measures to protect the coming elections from manipulation.

DHS does not cite any particular comments by Trump, Barr, or other officials alleging that mail-in voting is not safe, but it notes that Russia is “amplifying” claims of mail-in fraud made by Republicans. Trump has claimed for months that mail-in voting is prone to manipulation and recently urged voters of North Carolina to vote twice, by mail and in person, to guarantee that their votes are counted. Intentionally, voting twice is a felony in North Carolina and many other states.

Barr said last week, “Elections that have been held with mail have found substantial fraud and coercion.” The attorney general cited a Texas case in which the United States indicted someone who collected 1,700 ballots from eligible voters and filled “them out and voted for the person he wanted to.” A scary story, if true, but federal prosecutors brought no such indictment. 

While several states have conducted elections by mail for years and many Americans have cast absentee ballots in the past, the coronavirus pandemic understandably has heightened interest in voting by mail. Tens of millions of Americans who previously would have voted in person are now deciding not to risk their heath by going to crowded polling sites on Election Day. Studies indicate that Democratic voters are likely to vote by mail in significantly higher numbers than Republicans this fall. One recent study showed that 48 percent of voters who plan to vote for Democratic nominee Joe Biden are likely to use a mail-in ballot, while only 23 percent of Trump supporters will vote by mail. 

Trump gave a nod to the discrepancy when he admitted in a tweet that his opposition to mail-in voting is predicated on the assumption that it “doesn’t work out well for Republicans.” Other Republicans have conceded as much over the last decade. Even without such admissions, it would be obvious that partisan fears of losing motivate Republican attacks on mail-in voting since mail-in voting fraud is exceedingly rare in American elections. Billions of votes have been cast in all American elections — in person and by mail — since 2000, and the number of cases of fraud is so infinitesimally small that it could not come near influencing the outcome of any one election. Mailed ballots are safe because they are signed by the voter — and accepted only after the signature on the ballot matches the one on file — and have a barcode printed on them to insure that a voter does not vote twice.  

Trump’s continual broadsides against mail-in voting have begun to worry his Republican allies. Kevin McCarthy, the usually sycophantic House Republican leader, told Axios that he is encouraging voting by mail and has warned the president that Republicans could be “screwed” by his attacks on mail-in voting. McCarthy says he has spent hours trying to convince Trump that his focus on voting by mail harms both the president’s electoral chances and those of Republicans running for Congress. “I tried to show him… who is most afraid of COVID. Seniors. And if they’re not going to vote, period, we’re screwed,” McCarthy said in the Axios interview.

McCarthy is not the only Republican worried that Trump’s drumbeat against mail balloting will discourage supporters from adopting the practice key to voter turnout this year. Trump’s constant refrain that mail voting is “rigged” and “fraudulent” may work too well — discouraging his own supporters from voting. And, as McCarthy told him, if seniors are too afraid of getting sick to go the polls, Trump may be hurting himself with a core constituency. Granted, seniors are polling in higher numbers for Biden than voted for Democratic nominees in recent elections and Democrats are more likely than Republicans to vote by mail. But, if turnout drops by even a point or two among Republicans, that could be serious for Trump’s chances, especially in key battleground states. 

It would be ironic if Trump were to lose because his falsehoods worked too well. Still, all Americans have to be worried about the conjunction of Trump’s attacks on voting by mail with the Russian disinformation campaign against the practice. As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in July, with Trump “all roads lead” to Russian President Vladimir Putin. In attempting to undermine confidence in the American electoral process, it can be no coincidence that both Trump and the Russians are speeding down the same highway — sowing distrust in a result that is likely to go against Trump.

Posted on September 8, 2020

Ignore the Distractions

Look over here! No, over there! What do you see? A murky charge, a fleeting accusation, a hazy suggestion?

That is the game President Donald Trump and his sycophantic Republican allies are playing. They want you, the public, to look everywhere and at everything — but not at the numbers: more than 1.5 million cases of COVID-19 in the United States and more than 93,000 deaths, plus an unemployment rate approaching 20 percent. 

The name of the game: Distraction. Any distraction will do, no matter how outrageous or preposterous, just so the public does not see the bright shiny object of Trump’s epic failure: Morbidity and mortality in the United States far in excess of any other country’s totals and an economy in shambles.

Trump makes noise, so much noise that the important sounds are muffled. The noise can be anything, other than the important facts of the day: The pandemic numbers and the economic disaster. Noise — which mystifies and is chaotic — serves Trump’s purposes.

The biggest noise these days: “Obamagate.”  Trump cannot define it because it is undefinable. It is also outrageous since former President Barack Obama ran just about as squeaky clean an administration as possible. It was certainly the cleanest in recent memory. But, the undefinable nature of “Obamagate” suits Trump’s purpose. If there were a clear accusation, Democrats could counter, and the allegation and denial would occupy a news cycle or two. Without anything specific, the news media and public speculate for days as to what the Obama administration may have done. One news cycle bleeds into two or three or four, and all the time less attention is paid to the real scandal: The Trump administration’s abject failure to confront the pandemic and ease the economic collapse.

Wednesday, Trump’s Senate lackeys entered the game. His Republican allies reopened an inquiry into the connection between likely Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s son and the Ukrainian energy company, Burisma. Trump’s efforts to involve the Ukrainian government in the coming November presidential election by having Kyiv dig up dirt on the Bidens led to Trump’s impeachment. Anyone paying even hazy attention to the impeachment proceedings knows there was nothing corrupt in Hunter Biden’s work for Burisma and that Trump’s guilt was not only evident, but confessed. But, Senate Republicans, lacking courage (Mitt Romney of Utah excepted), ignored the facts and acquitted the president.

The facts of the impeachment inquiry apparently are no deterrence to determined Senate Republicans on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which subpoenaed documents relating to Biden and Burisma. It smacks of House Republicans’ futile Benghazi addiction, where they tried, unsuccessfully, through countless probes costing millions of dollars, to turn a tragedy into a crime. The truth about Benghazi was never the quarry. The whole point was to damage former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s presidential ambitions, which Representative Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican admitted in 2015: “Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping.”

Senate Republicans are blind to Trump’s shutting down investigations of his own administration by firing four inspectors general in recent months, but they are eager for “Burisma” to be a topic of discussion instead of “COVID-19,” “pandemic,” and “worst economic numbers since the Great Depression.” As Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York put it, “It’s like in a third-world dictatorship, a show trial with no basis in fact, with no due process, with no reality.”

“Obamagate” and “Burisma” are not the only Trumpian distractions. There is also this week’s admission by Trump that he is taking hydroxychloroquine, a drug whose efficacy against COVID-19 is unproven. Trump’s announcement  made him — not the disease and its spread — the story for days. Even a discussion of the danger of an obese president (see accompanying photograph) taking a drug that has serious side effects was more palatable than talking about more than 90,000 deaths. 

Hydroxychloroquine served a dual purpose: It changed the emphasis of discussion on the pandemic, and it drove the scandals involving Secretary of State Mike Pompeo from the front pages. Pompeo’s petty malfeasances and his perversion of policy — see Saudi arms deal — are certainly worthy of scrutiny. Trump knows his secretary of state, cherished for his willingness to do Trump’s bidding, is in trouble, so Trump’s announced drug taking would be a welcome distraction. Trump admitted as much  when he gave away the game and said, “I was just waiting to see your eyes light up when I said this, when I announced this.” 

Trump may be lying about ingesting hydroxychloroquine. He lies about almost everything, even matters easily disproven. But, whether true confessions or not, the timing of Trump’s admission was suspicious. He said he had been taking the drug for two weeks, but his confession came only after Pompeo’s troubles came to light.

There will be more distractions the closer we get to the election. Some of it will get ugly. We have already seen hints of just how ugly from Trump’s son. Donald Trump Jr., a prominent campaign surrogate, posted on Instagram a picture of Biden saying: “See you later, alligator” with an image of an alligator saying: “In a while, pedophile.” On Twitter, Trump junior said, “Anyone with a scintilla of common sense [knows] I’m joking around.” Two points: First, pedophilia is not a joking matter, and, second, Trump posted pictures of Biden touching youngsters, suggesting that the insinuation was not, after all, a joke. 

Trump and his allies do not play by the normal rules, if they play by the rules at all. They will engage in any abhorrent behavior as long as they think it serves their purposes and they are not held to account for it. And, of course, they will raise bogus issues to distract attention from what is important: The ongoing inability of the current administration to protect its citizens. Maintaining public safety is the first object of any government. The Trump administration has proven it cannot do even that.

Ignore the distractions. Do not look where Trump points; look at what he wants us to ignore. That is the real story. And, vote as if your life depends on it. Because it does. 

Posted May 22, 2020

Impeachment Moves into the Open

[The House resolution authorizing an impeachment inquiry] is still not a fair process in my mind. It is still a process where the Democrats call all the shots and we were not consulted along the way.Representative Greg Walden, Oregon Republican 

Elections have consequences. — House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican

Yes, elections do have consequences, and Democrats regained control of the House of Representatives in 2018, in part, by promising to exercise congressional oversight of the Trump administration. Clearly, Republicans have little interest in investigating alleged and confessed wrongdoing by President Donald Trump.

By voting Thursday to authorize the inquiry and establish its rules, Democratic House members demonstrated an understanding that the Constitution and their oath of office requires them to proceed. Nothing in the process — to date or in the future — has precluded or will preclude Republican participation. Republicans sit on the three committees that have been examining witnesses in closed-door hearings up to now. 

Republicans have been able to ask questions in those hearings — with one exception. Representative Adam Schiff — a California Democrats who chairs the House Intelligence Committee — objected Tuesday to a GOP line of questioning of Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman because of fears the Republicans were trying to learn the identity of the whistleblower who sparked the impeachment inquiry. The anonymity of whistleblowers is protected by federal law, and any attempt “to out” those who follow their conscience in reporting suspected wrongdoing — through proper channels — undermines a core concept of the democratic process. 

The repeated Republican attempts to identify the whistleblower is further evidence of how unserious Republicans are about investigating the president. The whistleblower complaint about Trump’s call with Ukraine’s president has long receded in the rearview mirror. It sparked the investigation into Trump’s scheme to withhold military aid critical to Ukraine in return for Ukraine’s promise to investigate the Bidens and look into the frequently debunked assertion that the Democratic National Committee’s server somehow wound up in Kyiv. But, the strength of the case Democrats are building against Trump rests on far more critical evidence, including the president’s own words in the rough transcript released by the White House and the testimony of numerous witnesses, at least one of whom was on the call between Trump and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky. 

Trump’s decision to release an edited version of the phone call may backfire. Many were mystified by the White House’s decision to distribute the transcript, but Trump’s strategy rested on two pillars: First, that the transcript was “exact,” and, second, that it failed to reveal a quid pro quo. Trump has insisted on numerous occasions that the document is “an exact word-for-word transcript of the conversation… taken by very talented stenographers.” If the “exact” transcript failed to reveal an explicit quid pro quo, then the president and his defenders could claim he did nothing wrong, and there is no need for an investigation, no need to subpoena staffers and documents, no need to drag the nation through an impeachment. 

There are two problems with this argument, which again indicates the unwillingness of Republicans to engage in a serious inquiry. First, the transcript is not exact. How do we know this? It says so on the bottom of the first page: “A Memorandum of a Telephone Conversation (TELCON) is not a verbatim transcript… A number of factors can affect the accuracy of the record.” Also, Tuesday, Vindman testified that the transcript omitted words and phrases (apparent to all who read it by the presence of ellipses in the document) and that he tried and failed to correct the document. 

Second, the issue of a quid pro quo is a Republican attempt to muddy the waters. True, the transcript does not contain those words. Who would expect such a reference? Republican claims that the lack of an explicit quid pro quo is akin to arguing that if a bank robber aims a gun at a teller and demands all the money in the safe, but never says, “This is a bank robbery,” then a bank robbery has not occurred. Any fair reading of the transcript reveals a clear connection between military aid and Zelensky’s cooperation in investigations demanded by Trump (“I would like you to do us a favor though…”). And, testimony by Trump-appointee William Taylor, the top American diplomat in Ukraine, confirms that Trump offered something — a meeting and military aid — in exchange for something else — a promise by Zelensky to pursue investigations into the Bidens and the Democratic server — a textbook, legal definition of a quid pro quo. Taylor’s testimony was corroborated Thursday in a deposition given by Tim Morrison, the top Russia advisor on the National Security Council, a Trump appointee and conservative hawk who is leaving his post. 

The decision by the Democrats to move to the next phase of the investigation directly challenges the Republican assertion that the process is corrupt. The inquiry will be held in public, and the president will be represented by counsel who can query witnesses. The House Intelligence Committee will release transcripts of the closed-door depositions taken so far, and the committee will issue a report on its investigation. Republican members on the Intelligence and Judiciary committees — the latter committee will draft the articles of impeachment — may subpoena documents and testimony. 

Republicans have complained that the process to date has lacked “transparency.” It may be a case of be careful for what you wish. Public hearings will drag Trump’s wrongdoing into the open, swaying public opinion — which has already moved dramatically — in favor of impeaching and convicting the president. When that happens, many Republicans — especially those representing swing districts and states — may regret having demanded a “fair process.” GOP members of Congress will either have to follow the evidence or the president, a tough decision to make with an election looming just a year away. And, as the minority leader says, elections have consequences. 

Posted November 1, 2019

The Republican Dilemma

The Republican dilemma is simple: There is no good defense for President Donald Trump’s requests for foreign governments to interfere in the 2020 presidential election. The arguments posited by Republicans so far — ranging from silly to absurd to downright lying — are an indication of just how dubious the GOP position is. A further indication is the lack of historical precedent for such an invitation. Not one of 10 former White House chiefs of staffs — who served under all the presidents from Ronald Reagan through Barack Obama — recalled any instances when the White House solicited or accepted electoral help from other countries, according to a survey conducted by The New York Times. (The quotations in the following two paragraphs come from this article.)

James Baker, a former chief of staff for two presidents, remembers one telling episode. In October 1992, four Republican members of Congress came up with a plan to bolster the flagging re-election prospects of President George H.W. Bush, who was trailing challenger Bill Clinton. Their plan: Attack Clinton for protesting the Vietnam War while attending school in London and also visiting Moscow. Bush liked the idea, but then demurred at the next suggestion. “They wanted us to contact the Russians or the British to seek information on Bill Clinton’s trip to Moscow,” Baker wrote in a memo later that day. “I said we absolutely could not do that.”

“I served three [Republican] presidents in the White House and don’t remember even hearing any speculation to consider asking for such action,” said Andrew  Card. William Daley, a chief of staff under Obama, said if someone hinted at such a move he would “recommend the person be escorted out of” the White House. “I would have shut him down,” said Leon Panetta, chief of staff for Clinton.

All of these patriots understood that extending an invitation for foreigners — countries or nationals — to meddle in American elections is wrong, aside from the particulars of Trump’s requests to Ukraine — a vulnerable country in the shadow of a mighty neighbor, Russia — and China and who knows how many other countries. The reason is simple: Other countries do not act in the interests of the United States. They act only in their own interests. That is right and proper. As Lord Palmerston, a prime minister of Britain in the 19th century, famously said, “We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow.” It does not matter if the other country is a friend, an ally, or an enemy. The same rule applies to Britain, Israel, and Canada as to Russia, North Korea, and Saudi Arabia. 

The Framers understood the dangers of foreign interference. “Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence… the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government,” said President George Washington in his Farewell Address. Alexander Hamilton, in Federalist No. 68, warned of the “most deadly adversaries of republican government [who] might be expected to make their approaches… from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils.” Hamilton never dreamed that a president might hold the door open, so to speak, for such an adversary. At the Constitutional Convention, James Madison alerted his colleagues to the possibility of a president who “might betray his trust to foreign powers.”

Republicans once knew the Framers were right. During the vice-presidential debate in 2016, Mike Pence said, “…All you need to know out there, this is basic stuff. Foreign donors, and certainly foreign governments, cannot participate in the American political process.” Now, the vice president sings a different tune: “I think the American people have a right to know if the vice president of the United States [Joe Biden] or his family profited from his position as vice president during the last administration…. The president made it very clear that he believes other nations around the world should look into it as well.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently warned Russia not to meddle in the 2020 elections, but said it was Trump’s “duty” to lure Ukraine into an investigation of the president’s political foe.

Most Republicans probably understand that Trump’s Ukraine phone call was an abuse of power, which is why so many of the ostensible defenses of the president are so tortured. Defending the indefensible is hard work, and it may make even the glibbest of speakers babble. Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin is hardly glib, but his performance Sunday on “Meet the Press” was a classic example of a politician with no cogent answer to a question trying to evade instead. Host Chuck Todd asked Johnson why he reportedly winced when told that military aid to Ukraine was linked to an investigation of Trump’s foes. Johnson immediately launched into a defense of Trump, claiming “I have never in my lifetime seen a president, after being elected, not having some measure of well wishes from his opponents. I’ve never seen a president’s administration be sabotaged from the day after election.” (Apparently, Johnson missed the Obama years.) Then, Johnson raised alleged CIA and FBI leaks on Russian interference in the 2016 election. The interview went completely off the rails — with Johnson shouting incoherently — when Todd tried to steer the subject back to the matter at hand. 

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s inability to mount a coherent defense of Trump in an appearance on “60 Minutes” did the president no favors. McCarthy apparently had not read the White House-released notes on the Ukraine call, accusing host Scott Pelley of adding “a word” — though — to Trump’s request that Ukraine do the president a favor. “Though” is in the White House document. McCarthy — along with other Republicans, Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio and Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri — later claimed Trump was joking when he asked China also to interfere in American politics. Funny man, that President Trump!

Many Republicans fall back on conspiracy theories, which was Johnson’s tactic when he invoked supposed leaks on Russian meddling in 2016, ostensibly to aid Hillary Clinton’s Democratic presidential campaign. Conspiracy theories or evasion or deflection, anything but actually discussing the issues at hand. The reason Republicans do not want to defend the merits of Trump’s actions is obvious: The actions are indefensible. And, that is the Republican dilemma, which will only worsen.

Posted October 8, 2019

Protecting Democracy

Dox — slang : to publicly identify or publish private information about (someone) especially as a form of punishment or revenge.Merriam-Webster 

Requiring people to stand up in public for their political acts fosters civic courage, without which democracy is doomed. For my part, I do not look forward to a society [in] which, thanks to the Supreme Court, campaigns [are]… hidden from public scrutiny and protected from the accountability of criticism. This does not resemble the Home of the Brave. Justice Antonin Scalia, June 24, 2010

I am not in the habit of quoting Justice Antonin Scalia, but the late jurist was correct in his view that “democracy is doomed… if campaigns [are]… hidden from public scrutiny.” Scalia knew that democracy dies in darkness, so it is surprising that his ideological heirs on the right are condemning recent disclosures of the names of campaign donors and are calling for a political system that allows unlimited, anonymous contributions. Chief among those favoring secrecy in the financing of political campaigns is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky. 

Two recent events have raised the issue of public disclosure of campaign contributions. Representative Joaquin Castro, a Texas Democrat who is the chair of his twin brother Julián’s presidential campaign, published a list on Twitter of 44 San Antonio residents who have contributed the maximum allowed by law to President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign. And, progressives have threatened to boycott businesses owned by real estate developers who hosted campaign fundraisers for Trump in the Hamptons, the moneyed enclave on eastern Long Island, New York.

Critics on the right accuse the namers of names of “doxxing,” which is, again, the online disclosure of private or sensitive personal information. Examples of doxxing include the revealing of Social Security numbers, cellphone numbers, and other personal information that should remain private. Doxxing is intended to do harm, or, at the very least, strike fear in those whose personal information has been published. Doxxing is an online version of harassment in which actual threats are made or implied.

Castro’s tweet — or the publicity surrounding the fund-raisers in the Hamptons — is not doxxing. The Democratic congressman tweeted information that is publicly available. Anyone could look up the data. All that Castro did is aggregate the information in one place — his Twitter account — without encouraging his followers to take specific action. Nor did Castro provide any private information — such as phone numbers — of the people on his list. Castro — who published the list after the El Paso massacre — called out several donors by name for contributing to “a campaign of hate that labels Hispanic immigrants as ‘invaders.’”

Many on the right pounced on Castro, despite the legality of his action. “Targeting and harassing Americans because of their political beliefs is shameful and dangerous,” tweeted House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Representative Steve Scalise criticized Castro. “People should not be personally targeted for their political views,” tweeted the Louisiana Republican. For his part, Trump countered with a nonsensical tweet: “I don’t know who Joaquin Castro is other than the lesser brother of a failed presidential candidate (1%) who makes a fool of himself every time he opens his mouth. Joaquin is not the man that his brother is, but his brother, according to most, is not much. Keep fighting Joaquin!”

Calling out donors who fund campaigns is not a new tactic. Conservatives, like McConnell, claim such disclosure impedes free speech, falling back on the argument that campaign donations are a form of speech, and public disclosure leads to potential harassment. Castro counters that he wants donors “to think twice about supporting a guy who is fueling hate in this country.” Trump’s reelection campaign has posted over 2,000 ads on Facebook referring to an “invasion” of immigrants from Central America. Every contribution to Trump’s campaign potentially funds those advertisements. Americans should know who pays for hate mongering.

The fundraisers on Long Island present similar issues. Progressives threatened to boycott SoulCycle, a spin studio chain, and Equinox, a high-end gym, businesses owned by billionaire Stephen Ross, the host of one of the fundraising parties for Trump. Boycotting businesses is a time-honored method of protest, dating back to the Boston Tea Party in 1773. In the late 1960s, many Americans refused to buy grapes in solidarity with underpaid and exploited California fruit pickers. Presumably, Ross makes money off memberships in his athletic clubs, and some of that money winds up in the coffers of the Trump campaign. Every American has the right to refuse to fund a candidate of whom he or she disapproves. That refusal is also an exercise of free speech. If that means boycotting a business whose owner supports an undesirable candidate, so be it. Free speech!

Of course, left-wing activism always brings the danger of a right-wing reaction. Trump reportedly raised $12 million the past weekend at the Hampton fundraisers, about $2 million more than expected. Trump joked about the controversy. “Steve Ross got into a little bit of trouble this week. I said, ‘Steve, welcome to the world of politics!’” Trump added, “I love coming to the Hamptons. I know the Hamptons well. Everyone here votes for me, but they won’t admit it.”

Ross and other big Trump donors apparently do not want to admit their contributions either. But, without public disclosure of money in politics, American elections, already polluted by big and dark money, would be bought and sold to the highest bidders. Corruption on a massive scale afflicted politics in the Gilded Age, the period in the late 19th century when newly rich industrialists used their massive fortunes to buy politicians. Campaign finance disclosure precludes such graft, which is as it should be. A return to secrecy would, as Justice Scalia wrote, doom democracy.

Posted August 13, 2019

Trump’s Campaign Strategy: It Will Get Uglier

Send her back!” chanted the crowd In Greenville, North Carolina, Wednesday in reference to Somali-born but naturalized American citizen Representative Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota Democrat. The chanters were witnessing the unveiling of President Donald Trump’s ugly reelection strategy, which drew on four days of racist tweets and statements making it clear that the targets of his attacks — four freshman Democratic congresswomen of color, of whom Omar is one — were not welcome in his America.

Make no mistake: Trump wants this fight, and he needs — for his electoral strategy — to fight the 2020 presidential election along the racial divide that permeates America’s past. Twelve years after the election of the nation’s first African American president, Trump’s appeal to racism and xenophobia takes America back to a dark period in our history. 

Trump clearly intends to recycle all the old, vile tropes of past campaigns: “Love it or leave it,” in reference to the United States, left over from the anti-Vietnam War protest movement; guilt by association when he says Omar supports al-Qaeda; an updated version of “Lock her up,” meaning Hillary Clinton; and the constant raising of the bogeyman label of “socialist” and “communist” in reference to Democrats generally and to Omar and the other three members, particularly, of “The Squad”: Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts. Nothing, apparently, is too old, too vile, too indecent for the amoral racist who sits in the Oval Office.

Thursday, Trump tried to distance himself from his chanting supporters by saying, “I was not happy with [the chants] — I disagree with it.” When asked why he did not stop the chants, Trump said he thought he had tamped down the enthusiasm by starting to speak “very quickly.” However, a review of the tape shows him pausing as the chants of “Send her back!” intensified. Nor did Trump do anything to discourage the crowd. When the president returned to the White House after the rally, he tweeted, “What a crowd, and what great people. The enthusiasm blows away our rivals on the Radial Left. #2020 will be a big year for the Republican Party!” The Washington Post Fact Checker gave Trump “Four Pinocchios” for claiming he tried to stop the crowd from chanting.

Trump may have been moved to issue his disclaimer after a few Republicans expressed reservations about the tenor of the crowd’s reaction to Trump’s mention of Omar. Representative Mark Walker, a North Carolina Republican, said he “struggled” with the chants. Others — such a Representative Tom Emmer, a Minnesota Republican, said there was “no place for that kind of talk,” but he defended Trump’s weekend tweets, which suggested the members of “The Squad” should return to their ancestral countries. And, then, there was the fine example of courage exhibited by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California who claimed the chants came from “a small group of people off to the side” and were not encouraged by the president. Trump took the bait, claiming he had not led the chants, thereby trying to have it both ways — revving up the crowd while disavowing its action, after the fact. (Memo to the voters of Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District: Send Omar back — to Congress.)

Clearly, Trump believes his path to victory depends on appealing to the passions of his base. It is a curious strategy, since one assumes the base is solidly behind Trump by now. But, the strategy envisions winning reelection along the contours of his 2016 victory, built on securing the vote of whites — particularly older white males — in Rust Belt states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Trump’s presidential victory came because he won those three states by fewer than 80,000 votes while Clinton underperformed Barack Obama in 2012 by 600,000 votes.

Trump anticipates narrowly winning the Electoral College, while perhaps losing the popular vote by an even greater margin than in 2016. Clinton won the popular vote by three million, even though nine percent of 2012 Obama voters cast ballots for Trump in 2016, and seven percent — more than four million missing voters — stayed home. If Clinton had won a small percentage of the Obama-to-Trump voters or of the stay-at-homes, she would be president. That is history, and Trump’s campaign may be drawing on such numbers. 

Trump’s plan might work, but it ignores the anger of suburban voters, especially suburban women, in areas like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Detroit, and Milwaukee, who were instrumental in helping Democrats gain control of the House in 2018 and who — along with black women — may well decide the 2020 election. The Trump path is so narrow that he must get every possible angry white vote from people scared of the demographic changes that are making America more diverse. Hence, the appeal to the Trump voters’ fears requires an increasingly ugly campaign.

And, it will get uglier. In the process of stoking the fears and prejudices of his backers, Trump is building a cadre of disaffected people loyal only to him. These Trumpistas — many of whom have guns — could form the core of Trumpian “Storm Troopers” willing to take to the streets to keep Trump in the White House. I use the term “Storm Troopers” guardedly, but I fear what might happen if Trump were to lose in 2020, especially if he loses narrowly in the Electoral College. Remember, in the final debate with Hillary Clinton in 2016, Trump refused to promise he would abide by the election results. “[I will] look at it at the time,” Trump said.

Trump’s victory in 2016 meant we never found out how far Trump would go to undermine the electoral returns. This time — facing possible indictment on numerous alleged crimes and misdeeds — would Trump refuse to turn over the keys to the White House to the victor? Would he call upon his loyal followers to take to the streets to overturn the election? I do not know, but I am scared.

Posted July 19, 2020