Tag Archives: Krysten Sinema

Donald Trump, Please Keep Talking

If we don’t solve the Presidential Election Fraud of 2020 (which we have thoroughly and conclusively documented), Republicans will not be voting in ‘22 or ‘24. It is the single most important thing for Republicans to do. — Statement by Donald Trump, the former president, October 13, 2021.

 

Picture by Hilary Stone Ginsberg

I think I speak for all progressives and a good smattering of moderates when I say: Go, Donnie, go! Whip up your supporters into a frenzy of not voting. The more they heed you, the better. 

After all, the non-voting strategy worked well in the two Georgia Senate runoff races in January 2021. In early December, two Trump allies, Lin Wood and Sidney Powell, urged Republicans not to vote for either Kelly Loeffler or Davide Perdue, the incumbent senators locked in a tight race against Democratic challengers. “Don’t be fooled twice,” Wood said. “This is Georgia, we ain’t dumb. We’re not going to go vote on January 5th on another machine made by China. You’re not going to fool Georgians again.” 

Yes, sir, that strategy worked well! Georgia Republicans apparently are not dumb(?) and, heeding Wood’s advice, were not fooled twice. According to an analysis of the election results by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, more than 750,000 Georgians who cast ballots in the November presidential election stayed home during the runoffs two months later. More than half of the no-shows were White and many lived in rural areas, demographic and geographic constituencies that lean heavily Republican. As one Georgian said, “What good would it have done to vote? They have votes that got changed.” 

The non-voting strategy worked so well that Democrats now control the Senate, albeit barely.

With Democrats divided among themselves over advancing President Joe Biden’s ambitious agenda and given the traditional bounce the party out of power gets in mid-term elections, Democrats may need oodles of Republicans to stay home in 2022 if they are to retain control of both the House and the Senate. The current Democratic razor-thin majorities in Congress would benefit greatly from great numbers of Republican no-shows around the country. 

Trump phrased his communication as a declarative statement, announcing that Republicans will not vote because of alleged fraud. But, like much of what Trump says to his followers, the above statement is likely to be interpreted by many in the Trump cult as a command not to vote, which probably was Trump’s intention. 

To the members of the Trump cult, it matters little that neither Trump nor his lawyers or sycophants have presented a shred of evidence of electoral fraud. If the Grand Poobah of Mar-a-Lago says he lost because of fraud, then it must be so for his ever loyal and unquestioning followers. And, presumably, millions of Republicans will heed his orders and not vote. 

So, here is one progressive’s dream-like scenario. With millions of Trump followers not voting in 2022, the Democrats win overwhelming majorities in the House and Senate. Democrats win over 300 seats in the House and dominate the Senate by a margin of 67-33. The House easily passes a raft of progressive legislation, and the paltry number of Republicans in the Senate are unable to filibuster the Biden agenda. Not only are Senate Republicans and naked-Emperor Mitch McConnell (see previous blog post) rendered impotent, but moderate Democrats — like West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin and Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema — are overwhelmed and can no longer derail progressive legislation.

In early 2023, Democrats enact measures (or expand on the incomplete legislation of 2021) guaranteeing free community college for all, child care for toddlers, child tax credits, expanded Medicare and Medicaid (perhaps even Medicare-for-All), the Green New Deal, paid parental leave, and much more. Immigration is reformed, giving millions of the undocumented a pathway to citizenship. And, voting rights are protected by a bill that enshrines early voting and mail-in balloting, makes Election Day a federal holiday, and rolls back all the Republican-passed state laws that suppress and nullify the vote and disempower state officials in their roles in the electoral process.

Trump and his followers wake up and realize that not voting is not a very good idea. But, since they conceded the 2022 election to Democrats, the 2024 presidential election will be free and fair. Even as Republicans flock to the polls again, their votes cannot change the outcome. Tens of millions of Americans are pleased with the Democratic legislation that has brought the United States into the modern world, guaranteeing a social safety net comparable to that of other industrialized democracies. And, all those pleased Americans can now vote freely and fairly, without the threat of Republicans suppressing and nullifying the votes of those who tend to vote Democratic. So, Joe Biden sweeps to a landslide re-election and the Democrats retain their large majorities in both the House and Senate. 

Go ahead, Donnie, please keep issuing statements. You may be the Democrats’ best friend yet!

Posted October 15, 2021

Quality, Not Quantity

Picture by Hilary Stone Ginsberg

Debates in America over major policy initiatives usually focus on cost. When the policies under scrutiny carry a price tag of 100s of billions — even trillions — of dollars, politicians in Washington and the public have good reasons to zoom in on money.

But, monetary quantity is not the sole criterion for judging whether Congress should enact legislation. Quality matters, too, and never more critically than in the debate about to begin on the massive $3.5 trillion proposal on so-called “soft” infrastructure such as universal preschool, paid family leave, expanded child tax credits, and other parts of the legislation that finally would bring the United States into line with other industrial democracies that provide such services and benefits for their citizens. 

Moderate Democrats in the Senate — Krysten Sinema from Arizona and Joe Manchin from West Virginia, among others — complain about the cost of President Joe Biden’s signature legislative proposal. Manchin, in particular, warns that he cannot support legislation that totals more than $1.5 trillion and suggests he would be happy if the final price tag is as low as $1 trillion. 

Manchin, Sinema, and their cohort of moderate Democrats are wrong to base their decisions solely on cost. For one thing, the money will be spent over a decade. For another, Democrats plan on raising taxes on the wealthy and enacting other measures to pay for the infrastructure plan. In no year would spending authorized under the infrastructure package exceed 3.45 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. And, there is no compelling evidence suggesting that the measure would spike an inflationary spiral, as some have worried. 

America can afford the cost. So, the question is: Can America afford not to pass the infrastructure package? If enacted as proposed, the bill would guarantee prekindergarten and community college for every American. It would bolster America’s competitiveness globally and reassert the nation’s role in fighting climate change. The way to think about the massive proposal is to imagine President Franklin Roosevelt stuffing the entire New Deal into one piece of legislation.

The package has widespread public support, regardless of cost. A poll conducted for HuffPost reveals that voters support the infrastructure plan by a two-to-one margin if told it costs $3.5 trillion, $2.5 trillion, or $1.5 trillion! The cost of the package had no influence on the level of support. Obviously, most Americans find these numbers incomprehensible, so the importance of the difference among the price tags may have little relevance. Still, it may be that voters are focusing on what is really important in the package and finding the cost largely irrelevant if the money is spent on the right programs.

The respondents in the poll may intuitively grasp that money spent on early childcare provides benefits far exceeding cost. Studies show, for example, that generous tax credits to families in need reap great benefits in improved health, education, and future earnings. The temporary child tax credits, for example, in President Biden’s initial economic recovery act — passed last spring — have reduced childhood poverty dramatically.

Still, for those who say, yes the bill contains many important parts that deserve serious consideration, but the cost…the cost… for them, I have a modest proposal.

Bear with me. When President Biden spoke of the end of America’s military involvement in Afghanistan, he made the following comment: “$300 million a day for 20 years. What have we lost as a consequence in terms of opportunities?” That comes to over $2 trillion. Obviously, that money cannot be recouped, but America spent it without suffering any serious domestic repercussions. We did not go broke. We did not suffer serious inflationary pressures. And, I have not even mentioned the money spent in Iraq over the same period. Adding that to the Afghan expenditures gives a cost total roughly equal to the $3.5 trillion for the proposed infrastructure plan. Americans should consider the cost of past foreign and military adventures when considering future domestic spending. 

The United States spends $700 billion a year supporting a huge military with bases and responsibilities around the world. Do we really need to spend that much money on the military? When pulling troops out of Afghanistan, Biden suggested that America’s global responsibilities will shrink. If so, that leaves a large question unanswered: What to do with the immense global military machine? If the United States is no longer going to try to impose democratic norms throughout the world, do we really need the huge military we now have? 

I am not suggesting unilateral disarmament. The world in 2021 is still a dangerous place. Russia is a threat, though a much reduced threat from the Soviet era. Still, it is a nation with a huge stockpile of nuclear weapons. China is an even more serous geopolitical threat requiring vigilance on our part. And, international terrorism remains a danger demanding close surveillance and the resources, both personnel and materiel, to respond quickly.

Still, does the United States need to spend more on national defense than China, India, Russia, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Germany, France, Japan, South Korea, Italy, and Australia — combined? China spends $250 billion annually on its military, second to the United States. But that is little more than a third of U.S. spending.

Cutting 50 percent of military spending would mean the United States would still outspend China by $100 billion while saving $350 billion annually. Over ten years, that savings would amount to $3.5 trillion — the proposed cost of the current infrastructure plan to invest in the nation’s future. I ask again: Can America afford not to pass the infrastructure package? Think about it. The quality of life in the United States and the repercussions globally depend on the answer. 

Posted September 21, 2021

Indefensible

Picture by Hilary Stone Ginsberg

Republican obstructionism is making it harder and harder to defend the filibuster.

Still, Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona tried to do just that earlier this week in an opinion piece in The Washington Post. Sinema’s argument can be summed up simply: Democrats will not always have a majority in the Senate, so if we Democrats overturn the filibuster in pursuit of the “For the People Act” (which Sinema co-sponsors), what would stop a Republican-controlled Senate from rescinding the Democratic law to pass a GOP ban on mail-in voting and/or to impose a draconian GOP voter-ID law? Or worse?

Sinema wrote her piece before Republicans filibustered the sweeping voting rights bill. The vote was on a procedural proposal to start debating the measure, and it went down on a straight party vote of 50 to 50, failing to achieve the supermajority required to move legislation forward in the modern Senate. Sinema, and other Democratic defenders of the filibuster, argue the tool is needed to encourage bipartisanship, but if Republicans unanimously will not even allow discussion of the “For the People Act,” it is hard to understand how moderate Democrats hope to reach a bipartisan agreement. If your adversary will not even discuss the issue, what room is there for compromise?

It is, of course, true that Republicans could turn the tables on Democrats and ram an undemocratic voting bill through the Senate. But, it is not always easy for a subsequent Congress to undo what a previous Congress did. Republicans tried numerous times for 10 years to repeal the Affordable Care Act, failing to muster support for what became a very popular public health measure. A comparison between the ACA and the “For the People Act” may not be entirely apt, as the ACA provides millions with healthcare, while Republican attempts to restrict voting is less tangible to many Americans. Still, a bill to insure voting rights for often disenfranchised groups, in part by making voting easier and more accessible, is likely to enjoy widespread support, making it difficult for Republicans to repeal it. 

But, that is speculative. Now, the truth should be obvious to everyone who cares about democracy: If Democrats do not find a way around the filibuster, it does not matter what a subsequent Republican-dominated Senate might do because Republicans in states they control are imposing the very measures Sinema fears a Republican-controlled Congress might impose in the future. Republicans at the state level are undermining democracy by passing strict voter ID laws, restricting mail-in and early voting, replacing bipartisan local election officials with Republican loyalists and political operatives, and threatening to allow state legislatures to determine the outcome of future elections by overriding the will of the people. A potential voter denied the right to vote does not care if he or she is disenfranchised by the federal government or by his or her state. The voter simply cares that he or she has been disenfranchised, period! The sad reality in 2021 is that America cannot have both democracy and the filibuster.

Sinema has allies among Democrats who object to eliminating or revising the filibuster to pass a sweeping voting rights law. Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia has been outspoken in his defense of supermajorities. Not all moderate Democrats agree, however. Senator Jon Tester of Montana says, “I think the filibuster’s important, but I think [protecting democracy] is fundamental to our country and who we are. And so I would take another look at the filibuster, if that’s what we need to move forward on this.”

The ancient Senate of the Roman Republic was the first legislature to use the filibuster. It was the favorite tool of Cato the Younger, the leading voice of the optimates, derived from the Latin word for best and applied to Rome’s conservative elite. Its role in frustrating popular measures was not lost on the Framers, who did not put it in the Constitution. It is, instead, an artifact of Senate rules, and an erroneous one at that. It came into being in the early 19th century when Vice President Aaron Burr mistakenly applied it to a procedural motion. It languished for several decades until senators realized that they could actually delay a motion by filibustering. 

The Framers disapproved of minorities running roughshod over majorities (and their opposite, which is why they built minority protections into the structure of government). Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist 22, “If a pertinacious minority can control the opinion of a majority…. [Then the] situation must always savor of weakness, sometimes borders upon anarchy.” James Madison, always concerned about protecting minority rights, nevertheless wrote in Federalist 10, “If a faction consists of less than a majority, relief is supplied by the republican principle, which enables the majority to defeat its sinister views by regular vote.” Yes! “Regular vote!”

Madison would, no doubt, have argued that requiring supermajorities to pass most legislation violates “regular” voting. And, a majority of Americans agreed with that view for most of our history, as the filibuster was used sparingly, mostly by segregationists to prevent civil rights legislation. It once required senators to actually talk a bill to death. Today, a senator can indicate his or her intent to oppose a bill, causing its delay. In other words, just one senator, by his or her opposition, can sideline a bill.

As Senator Sinema would say, what one Senate does, a subsequent Senate can undo. The filibuster exists by a Senate rule; the Senate can vote it out of existence by a simple majority. And, it should do so. The right to vote is intrinsic to democracy, and a minority cannot, and ought not, to be able to use minority obstruction to deny millions of Americans the right to vote. Especially when that minority, the Republican Party in this case, would reap partisan benefit from its exercise of minority power.

Posted June 25, 2021

Some Good News! But, Wait…

Picture by Hilary Stone Ginsberg

Buried under the avalanche of bad and scary news — such as Republican refusal to investigate the January 6 insurrection and Republican attacks on voting rights — some good news: The efforts to help people in crisis are working.

A study from the University of Michigan reveals that the COVID relief bill of late December 2020 and the American Rescue Plan of March 2021 — both of which put money in the hands of Americans — dramatically improved lives, particularly for those living in low-income households. Food insufficiency fell by over 40 percent, financial instability decreased by 45 percent, and reports of adverse mental health symptoms declined by 20 percent. In their summary of key findings, the study’s authors concluded that “the success of the federal government’s relief measures may be due to the speed, breadth, and flexibility of its broad-based approach, primarily relying on cash transfers.”

The December relief measure passed before President Joe Biden’s inauguration, but passage of the March relief package combined with the administration’s success in distributing and getting into peoples’ arms the coronavirus vaccine help explain the president’s remarkable favorability numbers in recent polls: Consistently over 50 percent and topping 60 percent from time to time. Clearly, people respond to the kinds of positive results reflected in the Michigan study. Biden’s numbers may even go up in coming months as the nation reopens over the summer and people start going to picnics, ballgames, and restaurants and doing all the things they took for granted before the pandemic.

But — and this is a big but — as robust as the recovery from both economic devastation and the pandemic has been, there are danger signs lurking. Republican intransigence and obstructionism, as I indicated earlier this week, remain an ongoing threat to the longevity of American democracy. The nation is afflicted by a major political party that refuses to investigate treason and is trying to steal elections. Make no mistake about it, contained in the voter suppression and nullification laws wending their way through Republican-controlled state legislatures is a plot to insure that a party with no ideology, a declining voter base, and a lack of commitment to constitutionalism can seize power by flagrantly denying the will of the majority. Republicans intend to deny Democrats electoral success by any and all means.

Republicans remain in thrall to their cult leader — the autocratically inclined former president, Donald Trump — despite signs that Trump’s popularity is declining. A NBC News poll taken in April — 100 days after Trump left the White House — showed his favorability rating at just 32 percent, down eight points from his rating on January 20. In another bit of good news and a sign that out-of-office leads to out-of-mind, a frustrated Trump this week removed himself entirely from the Internet. Still banned on Twitter and Facebook, Trump decided to shut down his month-old blog, “From the Desk of Donald J. Trump.” According to associates, the former president became angry when he learned the site attracted little traffic. Others reportedly told Trump the little-read blog made him look irrelevant. Last month, The Washington Post reported that Trump’s website attracted fewer visitors that the pet-adoption service “Petfinder” and the recipe site “Delish.”

Trump’s inability to dominate the news to the extent he could as president and his lack of an Internet presence suggest a growing irrelevancy. But, no one should underestimate his potential for mayhem. He remains popular among a sizable number of Republicans, and the 2024 Republican presidential nomination is his for the taking. A diminished Donald Trump is like a wounded wild animal — dangerous and lashing out at one and all.

While Trump is not a media presence as such, he still dominates public discourse. The right-wing media is full of stories about him, and even on centrist and progressive news outlets, discussion of Trump’s political future, his past failures, and his growing legal woes tends to crowd out coverage of the Biden administration. The successes of the new administration do not receive, perhaps, as much attention as they deserve, which is one reason why Biden and others in his administration have taken to the road to convince Americans of the efficacy of their policies. Biden would not be the first president to appeal directly to the public to convince a recalcitrant Congress to act.

As popular as Biden is, his policies are even more popular. But, the window of opportunity for Biden and Democrats is narrow. The Senate passed the stimulus package by using budget reconciliation to circumvent a Republican filibuster, but other major Biden initiatives are stalled in Congress. The infrastructure proposal, two measures to insure free and fair elections, and the American Family Act are subject to Republican obstruction through the filibuster in the Senate. The unwillingness of Republicans to even negotiate in good faith on these measures makes eliminating or, at least, amending the filibuster imperative.

I suspect Biden has a strategy aimed at convincing reluctant conservative Democratic senators — Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Krysten Sinema of Arizona — that nothing will get done as long as Republicans can wield the filibuster. Hence, Biden’s continuing discussions with West Virginia Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito on infrastructure legislation. Biden probably suspects the negotiations will go nowhere, but he wants to play them out as long as possible so he can say, “See, I tried, but Republicans won’t even meet me halfway.” Infrastructure, after all, is the kind of legislation that used to attract bipartisan support. What lawmaker would not want to go home and tell voters, “I got you that new bridge?”

A failure to attract Republican support for infrastructure legislation combined with Republican defeat of the measure to investigate the January 6 insurrection — after Democrats yielded to every Republican demand on the makeup of the commission — might lead even reluctant Democrats to vote for the filibuster’s end. If not, Democrats will have little but their initial successes to run on in 2022 and 2024. Worse yet, the inability to secure federal legislation protecting free and fair elections will give Republicans a huge opportunity to prevent Democratic-leaning voters from exercising their franchise and allow Trump and his Republican cohorts to undermine further American democracy.

Despite the good news about vaccines and economic recovery, the situation is critical, and Democrats must not let up. It is time to end the filibuster and legislate in the interests of the American people.

Posted June 4, 2021

End the Filibuster. Now.

Nothing is more consequential for the future of democratic government than elimination of the filibuster — the tool that allows a minority to frustrate the will of the majority. 

If the filibuster is not ended — or, at least, curtailed — Democrats will not be able to pass the comprehensive election reform bill that is now before Congress. Failure to pass the legislation will open the way for Republicans to pass voter suppression laws. Republicans have ceased to be partners in protecting and furthering voting rights because they are a party that no longer has a governing ideology. Lacking any meaningful policy agenda with popular appeal, Republicans know the only way they can win elections in the future is by limiting the vote to constituencies most likely to support their anti-democratic goals. 

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, Republican legislators around the country — capitalizing on Donald Trump’s lies that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him — have introduced measures to limit who can vote by mail while making it harder for eligible voters to obtain mail-in ballots. A number of states have legislation on their calendars to impose more stringent voter ID laws. Other states would slash opportunities for voters to register while aggressively purging voter rolls. Some states are preparing to limit early voting by restricting days and hours polls would be open and limiting the number of ballot drop-off boxes. In what can only be considered petty legislation, some legislators would forbid volunteers from offering food and water to voters standing in line. (Lines will increase in size in proportion to limits on early and absentee voting.) And, last but not least in importance, the apportionment of seats in the House of Representatives (and state legislatures) will change because of the 2020 census, giving a number of states the opportunity to further gerrymander legislative districts.

All these measures impact minority and poor voters disproportionately. Whether Republicans favor limiting voting rights because it is the only way to cling to power or because of racist opposition to minorities voting (or, most likely, a combination of the two) is immaterial. What is important is that the voter suppression measures cited above would enshrine minority control of government at the federal and state levels. The result will be the disenfranchisement of millions of Americans and the guarantee that a minority of the population succeeds in preventing the passage of legislation favored by a large part of the public. 

This dire prediction is made worse because the Supreme Court — which already has struck down a key provision in the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Bill — is poised to further gut the measure. At issue in the case before the court in the current session is Section 2 of the 1965 law which prohibits state electoral regulations that result in the denial of a citizen’s right to vote based on race. If the high court declares Section 2 invalid, which seems likely, then states will be free to impose racial barriers on voting. (A separate measure before Congress, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, would restore the protections of the 1965 law.)

The effects of Republican legislation at the state level and the Supreme Court’s possible evisceration of the Voting Rights Law can be mitigated by Senate passage of H.R. 1, the “For the People Act of 2021.” (The House passed the measure last week.) Simply put, the bill will make it easier for people to vote by providing for automatic voter registration, no-excuse mail-in voting, setting standards for the days states must allow in-person early voting, and requiring states to count mail-in ballots early to lessen counting controversies after Election Day. The bill reduces the influence of money in politics by exposing dark-money campaign contributions and creating a federal matching system for congressional elections. The measure also decreases the control politicians have over redistricting (gerrymandering) by giving the power to draw district lines to independent commissions. Finally, “For the People” tightens rules against lobbying and toughens penalties for foreign interference in American elections. 

But, and this is a big but — none of this happens if the filibuster is not curtailed. 

The Senate version of “For the People” now sits in the Rules and Administration Committee, chaired by Minnesota Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar. The committee will hold hearings on the measure later in March, with floor action slated for later this spring. Klobuchar said many of the provisions of the omnibus bill have had bipartisan support as individual pieces of legislation. “Not all provisions are bipartisan, but a lot are,” she said. 

Republicans see the entire measure as permitting the federal government to interfere in state control of elections. That is their rational argument. More often, Republicans claim the bill is an overreach by Democrats to guarantee their hold on power. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to allow a vote on a version of the bill when he was majority leader. “What this bill is, is a Democrat push to elect more Democrats,” the Kentuckian said in 2019. Unbelievably, former vice president Mike Pence — whose life was threatened by a mob perpetuating Trump’s lies about a fraudulent election — has written that “For the People” will “increase opportunities for election fraud, trample the First Amendment, further erode confidence in our elections, and forever dilute the votes of legally qualified eligible voters.” (News flash, Mike: The Trumpistas will never forgive you no matter how much toadying up to the former guy you do.)

These concerns would have little import if all Democrats favored ending the filibuster. Support for basing passage of legislation on a simple majority vote is increasing, but Democratic Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Krysten Sinema of Arizona favor keeping the rule. Manchin defends the filibuster: “The minority should have input — that’s the whole purpose for the Senate. If you basically do away with the filibuster altogether for legislation, you won’t have the Senate. You’re a glorified House. And I will not do that. (Manchin said Sunday he is open to make the filibuster “a bit more painful” to use.)

Democrats who support the filibuster are short-sighted. The omnibus voting bill will not pass if the filibuster is retained. That will enshrine minority rule in Congress and state legislatures as Republicans continue to pass laws restricting voting, state legislatures maintain the gerrymander, and the Supreme Court obliterates the Voting Rights Act. Yes, doing away with the filibuster is in the self-interest of the Democratic Party. But, it is also the right thing to do. The filibuster never made much sense in a democracy. In 2021, its continuation will serve reactionary interests by frustrating majoritarian rule. We do not live in the 1790s, after all, when only White males who owned property could vote. Since then, Americans have extended the vote to more and more people: First, all men, then all men regardless of race (in theory), women (in 1920), lowering the voting age, and finally protections to guarantee all eligible citizens can vote.

Reactionary Republicans of 2021 do not subscribe to the doctrine that all people should vote. That is the difference between Republicans and Democrats, which was eloquently put by Representative John Sarbanes, a Maryland Democrat. “You can win on the basis of your ideas and the programs you put forward, which is what we choose to do,” said Sarbanes. “Or you can try to win by suppressing the vote, drawing unfair districts across the country and using big money to spread disinformation.”

Posted March 9, 2021

Trump’s Dangerous Game

President Donald Trump and his cohort of Republican enablers have hit a new low: They are undermining democratic norms with their frequent and virulent accusations of electoral fraud in Florida — and elsewhere.

Democracy is a fragile political system: Its stability depends on a shared sense of the system’s inherent fairness and a confidence that the candidate with the most votes wins. Claims of electoral fraud — no matter from whom and regardless of the eventual outcome — fray public trust in democratic institutions. Shouted long enough and loud enough, allegations of cheating inevitably result in large numbers of people no longer accepting the results, a recipe for anarchy, civil unrest, or, in the worst case, violence.

Trump has led the way with baseless accusations. “The Florida Election should be called in favor of Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis in that large numbers of new ballots showed up out of nowhere, and many ballots are missing or forged. An honest vote count is no longer possible-ballots massively infected. Must go with Election Night!” reads one of his ill-informed and deliberately provocative tweets. (What, by the way, is an infected ballot?) Then, there was this tweet: ”Trying to STEAL two big elections in Florida! We are watching closely!” Finally, in an interview with the right-wing Daily Caller, Trump claimed, “When people get in line that have absolutely no right to vote and they go around in circles. Sometimes they go to their car, put on a different hat, put on a different shirt, come in and vote again. Nobody takes anything. It’s really a disgrace what’s going on.” This assertion echoed Trump’s absurd claim that he lost the popular vote in 2016 because undocumented immigrants voted by the millions. In The Daily Caller interview, the president reiterated the Republican refrain that voter ID laws are needed to prevent fraudulent voting. “If you buy a box of cereal — you have a voter ID,” he asserted. “They try to shame everybody by calling them racist, or calling them something, anything they can think of, when you say you want voter ID. But voter ID is a very important thing.”

Wow! There is a lot to parse in the above idiocy. For starters, I suspect the president has not shopped for cereal lately. I have, and I do not ever recall being asked to show identification at checkout when buying cereal. But, in Virginia, where I live, voters do need identification to vote. The problem with Republican-sponsored voter ID laws is that they frequently require forms of identification — such as, a government-issued driver’s license or a passport — not possessed by significant numbers of Americans, especially the poor and minorities. Also, the idea that numbers of people vote multiple times is preposterous and an insult to the many dedicated poll workers out there. Also preposterous are Trump’s claims that undocumented immigrants — aliens, in his lexicon — vote illegally. People not legally in the United States live in the shadows, desperately trying not to attract attention. The last thing such a person wants to do is to cast an illegal vote and be caught. Why risk deportation for a vote? It defies logic.

There is absolutely no evidence of widespread in-person voter fraud, except in the minds of Republican politicians who desire to whip up hysteria around voting for two reasons: First, it fans anti-immigrant bias and, second, it provides a rationale for restricting the ballot to groups

who are whiter, older, and wealthier and more likely to vote Republican. Such agitation is, of course, a form of voter fraud, and it has become common within the GOP. Republican politicians have been trying to limit the franchise for decades because they know key demographic groups — the young, African Americans, Hispanics — trend Democratic, and their numbers are growing. 

So, it is not surprising that Trump and Republican allies are calling for an end to counting votes in Florida. Governor Rick Scott accused his Democratic Senate opponent, Senator Bill Nelson, of “clearly trying to commit voter fraud to win this election.” Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio said, “Democratic lawyers… are here to change the results of the election.” Neither Scott nor Rubio offer any evidence to back up their accusations. But, that does not stop them from asking for valid ballots to be discarded, even though Florida law grants a 10-day extension past election day for military ballots mailed from overseas. By the way, Florida law also mandates recounts if election results fall within prescribed margins. No chicanery there, just a legal recounting of votes. The Republican gambit is mysterious. Scott most likely will be the next junior senator from Florida, given his more than 12,000 vote lead. Why taint the results of an election he almost certainly will win? 

Trump also called for “a new Election” in Arizona. Fortunately, the Republican in Arizona, Representative Martha McSally, has more devotion to democracy than either Trump or top Florida Republicans. With her golden retriever Boomer at her side, McSally graciously conceded to her opponent, Representative Krysten Sinema. Arizona might not have a Democratic senator in January if Trump’s nativism and boorish behavior had not led incumbent Senator Jeff Flake to retire. Of course, Trump is not capable of introspection, so he likely does not appreciate his role in Sinema’s victory.

He does not seem to understand how the election results were a rebuke of him and all his ugliness. And, it is ugly and likely to get uglier. Demands by Trump and other Republicans that votes be ignored or that unfavorable election results be set aside is the surest path to autocracy. I shudder over the prospect of a close 2020 presidential election. Will Trump refuse to vacate the White House if he loses narrowly? Will he demand recounts until he gets the results he wants? Will his supporters not accept the results if he loses? Are you ready for a civil war? There are a lot of guns across the country, but that is another blog.

Posted November 16, 2018