I first posed this question in a column seven months ago, on May 23rd, 2020. Now, I’ll presume to answer the rhetorical question raised in that column. Yes, I think the time, perhaps, has come to consider giving new thought to old political paradigms.
Let’s give Thomas Jefferson a nod and call a new political Party the Republican-Democratic Commons Party (RDC for short). Or, maybe, the Democratic-Republican Commons Party (DRC for short). The Republican and Democratic emphasis could be alternated for each election cycle, for Commons will be the operative term. In this new and modern context, Commons is simply to acknowledge that the new Commons Party is for the People. It doesn’t connote common possessorship in the old context, but instead, common purpose, that is, to seriously conduct the people’s business.
The new Party would be Centrist in nature because the center is where things get done, where serious, patriotic men and women throughout the great American spectrum temper their differences. Little that is constructive happens at the extremes– mostly noise, rancor, divisiveness, and stalemate.
Today, both political parties in our country suffer from extreme influences that are inimical to progress, collegiality, the American body politic’s best interests, and the great American experiment in Democracy. There is room to fear that this malady of Party enmity is terminal and that the great American experiment cries out for rebirth and renewal. Yes, I think, maybe, the time has come.
The Republican Party isn’t even a shell of its original self. The Republican Party replaced the Whig Party in 1854 by taking a strong and principled stand against slavery, which the Whigs were reluctant to do, and the pro-slavery Jacksonian Democrats refused to do. To call today’s Republican Party the Party of Lincoln is, well, just plain silly. Lincoln would have been disgusted with many of today’s Republicans.
When, nearly five years ago, on January 23, 2016, President Trump bragged that he could shoot and kill someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue and not lose a single vote, he was engaging in metaphor to make a point. The point? I am so popular; I can get away with anything. As it turns out, getting away with shooting an anonymous, rhetorical straw person known to no one may not have been that far-fetched a metaphor.
But now we can understand Trump’s thinking a bit clearer. What he seemed to believe then, and is doubling down on now, is that he could shoot a bullet into the heart of American Democracy, and few in the Republican Party would care. He thinks he is just that popular. In that supposition, he is dead wrong. While many Republicans would, indeed, follow Trump into the abyss, many, I believe most, would not—not once they understood the extreme depths to which he would drag the nation to stay in power.
While millions of Republicans are in sycophantic thrall to President Trump and who embrace QAnon and the histrionics of Sidney Powell and Rudi Giuliani, I believe many Trump voters do know where to draw a line in the sand. I believe that line is that metaphoric shot into the heart of Lady liberty—American Democracy itself.
That is why Republican judge after Republican judge, Republican governor after Republican governor, many other Republican elected officials, appointed Republican election-security officials, Republican Attorney General William Barr, and even a Republican-majority Supreme Court have dug in their collective heels and said “No!” to Trump’s blatant and unfounded attacks on an American election, indeed, on American Democracy itself.
Traditional Republican principles such as fiscal responsibility, a loathing of chronic budget deficits and resulting runaway debt, support of free trade, and a market-driven, anti-tariff economy still matter to many Republicans, even if today’s Republican Party has jettisoned those principles in deference to President Trump
The Democrats have evolved from the old Jacksonian pro-slavery party. In the old Solid South of the first half of the 20th century, the Party was a bastion of Jim Crow and a fierce force for segregation. However, for nearly a century, and to its credit, it has morphed into the robust progressive-leaning political party it is today. Many Democratic organizations no longer celebrate Jefferson-Jackson Day fundraising dinners, having jettisoned the old ties to the Party’s slavery-promoting beginnings.
Today’s Democrats and millions of independent and first-time voters (over 80 million in total) have elected a decent, party stalwart, Joe Biden, to be the 46th President of the United States of America. Yes, he really won. No, he is not addled, corrupt, a Trojan horse for Marxism, nor the head of a crime family.
Whether or not he will be a great or noteworthy President remains to be seen, but he will be the 46th President of the United States when the 45th President’s term expires in twenty-four days. The incessant, over-the-top attacks directed at Biden by Trump are beyond the pale of acceptable political behavior. However, that having been said doesn’t negate the lasting damage a large and radical fringe within the Democratic Party is doing to drive away millions of voters.
The Defund-the-Police movement, the soft-peddling, if not tolerance by too many, of urban looting and arson, the woke movement to expunge long-standing pronouns such as him and her and he and she from the American lexicon is an enormous turn-off to millions of Americans. These movements drive millions of Americans to vote for, well, the other political party. Understand this: that reality is partially why Donald Trump captured as many votes as he did as a losing candidate.
So, maybe, we need to rethink our political alignments in America. Maybe centrist Republicans who are not in the thrall of President Trump and the type of political corrosiveness he represents, and centrist Democrats who aren’t as woke as that combative, bellicose fringe in their Party can, together, pursue constructive progress under a new centrist banner.
RDC or DRC anyone?
******Battered and Scarred, the Guardrails Held.
Come, let us praise John Marshall, Chief Justice, 1801–1835.
And, of course, the authors of the Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay. They and the other founders, including Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin, represent an almost miraculous assemblage of great thinkers simultaneously concentrating on the single objective of creating an entirely new, audacious, and, for sure, a risky experiment in governance.
That they were there, in one place, focused on that singular purpose is one of the greatest gifts one generation has ever passed on to the generations that were to follow. Their thinking changed the world and saved the 2020 Presidential election from the assaults of the 45th President of the United States. The founders created the essential guardrails that held up to the greatest domestic assault on our democracy since its creation.
Chief Justice John Marshall:
Let us begin with John Marshall, our nation’s fourth Chief Justice, who, it has been observed, made the Supreme Court supreme. It was in deciding a rather arcane case, Marbury versus Madison, that the Supreme Court established its place as a co-equal branch of government—the branch that could invalidate any law passed by Congress and signed by the President that it found in violation of the Constitution, and, perhaps most important, the final authority on what does and does not comport with the Constitution. No President in the 217 years since Marbury versus Madison has ever challenged the Supreme Court’s primacy in matters of constitutional law.
The Supreme Court is the ultimate guardrail protecting constitutional government in the United States of America. While the President is the Commander and Chief of the Armed Forces, he and all those military officers who serve under him have sworn allegiance only to the Constitution of the United States, and not to a temporary employee of the people, even if he or she works at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
There is no ambiguity concerning the branch of government that, ultimately, decides the law under the Constitution. It is the judiciary, and ultimately, the Supreme Court. The current, overwhelmingly conservative, Supreme Court’s decision to refuse to bend to the absurd challenges brought by Trump’s political sycophants has sealed Trump’s fate as a one-term President as determined by over 80 million voters who chose his opponent over him.
The President (any President) doesn’t really turn over power to a new President. Donald Trump’s presidency simply expires at noon on January 20, 2021. As of that date and time, he will have no power to turn over to anyone. As a former President whose presidency has expired, he either leaves the White House on or before January 20 or is simply a guest or a trespasser.
This automatic expiration of power, previously unheard of in the history of nations, is what makes the Office of President of the United States a wonderous institution. So, ever since Chief Justice Marshall declared in Marbury versus Madison that it “is emphatically the duty of the Judicial Department to say what the law is,” the entirety of government, without exception, has complied with decisions of the high court.
It was so when Republican President Eisenhower sent federal troops to Little Rock Arkansas to end segregation in public schools in that city, or when Richard Nixon turned over the infamous oval office tapes to the House Judiciary Committee when ordered to do so by the Court, or when the Court ordered a cessation to the unending counting of ballots in Florida, bringing the 2000 election to an end. And as even Attorney General Barr opined, if the Court disagrees with President Trump, “then he’s lost the case.” And so, he has.
The Federalist Papers:
Hamilton, Madison, and Jay, collectively penned eighty-five articles or essays that we know, today, as the Federalist Papers. John Jay, who became ill, only contributed five of the essays. James Madison contributed twenty-nine and Alexander Hamilton a remarkable fifty-one. These documents made the case for ratification of the new Constitution and, therefore, of the new national government. They, collectively, represent a window into the minds that produced our most enduring form of constitutional government, whereby those who govern do so at the pleasure of the governed.
This new American Constitution produced a robust, free society that was, as Alexis de Tocqueville was to observe a generation later, “like nothing he had ever seen before.” The Federalist Papers also provide the best insight into the original rationale or intent of the framers and, consequently, they have, over time, become recognized as the best source for understanding the framers’ original intent.
Hamilton makes a landmark statement in Federalist Paper 78: “No legislative act, therefore, contrary to the Constitution, can be valid.” This comment foreshadows the doctrine of judicial review enunciated by Chief Justice John Marshall 15 years later in Marbury v. Madison. In his decision, Marshall declared it was the province of the Supreme Court to determine if a law is, or is not, constitutional—that is, in conformity with “the supreme law of the land.” Now, that’s quite a guardrail.
President Trump has sent his army of lawyers into over fifty courts to present innuendo, random and often wild allegations, and isolated errors as evidence of massive fraud to attempt to disenfranchise millions of voters. In virtually every case the judges, Republican and Democrat alike, have rebuffed the President’s arguments and, often, derided them as being without merit and lacking any credible material evidence.
The justices remind us that in America, allegations, many absurdly wild, are neither evidence nor proof of anything. In the entire history of the nation, there has never been so intense a domestic attack on the very foundation of our republic as that mounted by President Trump and his campaign to retain power and to impugn the integrity of our court and our democratic institutions. But the nation’s constitutional guardrails have held.
No one should question this President’s, or any President’s, right to pursue legal remedies for illegal acts, especially illegal acts presumed to influence an election. However, that is not really the issue in this recently-concluded presidential election, and it never was. As it turns out, fraudulent acts, human error, and technology malfunctions in this election appear to have been no more significant, and, according to our top state and federal election security officials, even less significant than the garden-variety exceptions to the rules that take place during every election.
The President made it very clear before the election, and before the first vote was cast, he would claim fraud if he lost. Not surprisingly, he made the exact same claim before the 2016 election. Claiming fraud and fakery has become a Trump staple. In so arguing, he has engaged in a mockery of justice and a fraud of his own.
State officials, federal officials, the United States Justice Department, the United States Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, state courts, federal courts, the Supreme Court, Republican and Democratic officials alike, have looked at the bogus charges of fraud. They have found no material wrongdoing and certainly nothing that could have changed the result of the election.
The guardrails have held. They have taken a beating, but they have held. For that, we must praise John Marshall and that remarkable gathering of the nation’s founders.
Historical fiction by Hal Gershowitz available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Kindle, Apple iBooks, and Audible.Lady Justice: Making America Great Again.
That beautiful blindfolded lady holding the scales of justice, weighing truth against deceit, fact against falsehood, and the just cause against the malevolent scheme—she is the true heroine of this tormented election season.
French philosopher Baron de Montesquieu greatly influenced our diminutive founding giant, James Madison, to insist on a wholly independent judiciary to provide checks and balance against the executive and the legislative branches of our fledgling government. While each of the three separate branches provides checks and balances against abuse by the other branches, the arbiters of our constitutional law disputes are our courts, from the lowest to the most supreme. Neither Montesquieu nor Madison could have envisioned that two-and-a-half centuries later their wisdom would literally save the great American experiment in democracy.
All of the various court verdicts regarding the partisan claims of election fraud have been unambiguous. The spectacle of Trump’s lawyers and partisans arguing that the election should be euthanized has failed everywhere, from the lowest courts to the highest court in the land. The hired guns and Trump campaign’s flacks have twisted and turned like contortionists in a uniformly failed effort to assassinate an election.
For the numerous justices patiently witnessing the onslaught of the Trump campaign’s gaggle of lawyers delivering furious but fatuous arguments for nullifying a national election, it must have been like watching clowns at court trying to pick up dung by the clean end. No justice in the land, whether Republican or Democrat, was having any of it. The election was honorable and honorably administered, notwithstanding the efforts of dishonorable political hacks dishonorably flacking for nullification of a national election. Try as they might, the Trump lawyers haven’t been able to put a good face on a horrid cause. Courts at every level, including the US Supreme Court (twice and unanimously), have now turned away Trump’s legal marauding, seeing it for what it is; a menacing, desperate, and disingenuous attack on an American election.
In the attempt to nullify the election, President Trump put through hell good and decent men and women, Democrats and Republicans alike. Trump’s irresponsible statements and those of his lawyers have, quite deliberately, endangered good and decent Americans, some elected, some selected, and many simply volunteers who oversaw the nation’s balloting through the many and varied election procedures. They did so conscientiously and honorably and with relatively few errors. It is against these good men and women that President Trump has committed a calumny of historic proportions.
According to President Trump, hidden among these conscientious and dedicated men and women were a cabal of devious fraudsters, stealing America’s greatest treasure, the national election. In essence, Trump has claimed without evidence that among these American election workers and officials were shills who were either duplicitous in a massive fraud or too stupid to recognize what he and his acolytes have represented as the greatest scam in American election history. We have witnessed a shameful and failed spectacle of an American President savaging an American election
President Trump’s scam offense was dog-eared in his election playbook and rehearsed well before the election. The 2020 election, he had claimed repeatedly, could only be lost if the Democrats had rigged the election. He was, of course, merely dusting off his prior election rhetoric, whereby he had made the same ridiculous claim over and over again in the run up to the 2016 contest. Four years ago, also without evidence, he protested that only widespread fraud could cost him that election. It has become a worn and tired Trump mantra.
When pushing through Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court, Trump telegraphed that he might very well have intended for the Supreme Court to be his ace-in-the-hole. “I think this will end up in the Supreme Court,” Trump announced to reporters the month before the election. Given his transactional mentality, Trump probably assumed I elevate these judges (Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett) to the Supreme Court and, if push comes to shove, they elevate me to the presidency. However, that is not what James Madison had in mind, nor is it what Justices Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, Barrett, or any other Supremes had in mind.
In multiple state and federal suits and the most conservative US Supreme Court in recent memory, Trump has challenged the election outcome while also pressing state Republican officials to throw out the election results and simply declare him the winner.
Republican officials who have supported Trump and voted for him in the just-concluded election, but have refused to show fealty to him like vassals to a feudal lord, have incurred the wrath of the President and his minions of sycophants. Georgia Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan, a proud and loyal Republican, who voted for Trump and strongly supports the two Republican senators running in Georgia’s special election on January 5th, lamented that the President’s misinformation campaign is duping Georgians. He and many other honest Republicans are simply not prepared to misrepresent the truth in the service of a corrupt cause.
President Trump resides in a world of his own. He is fixated on the reality that more than 70 million Americans voted for him and dismissive of the fact that more than 80 million Americans have rejected him.
Invite friends, family, and colleagues to receive “Of Thee I Sing 1776” online commentaries. Simply copy, paste, and email them this link—https://lp.constantcontactpages.com/su/ILPzgKS –and they can begin receiving, free of charge, these weekly essays every Sunday morning.The Swift Grift
Or Make America Groan Again.
It is something to behold; this tidal wave of donated money chasing a false narrative dangled like a carrot before an already election-and-pandemic-stressed public by President Trump and his Katzenjammer crew.
More than $200 million and counting since the election—nearly $7million a day raked in from his base. Ostensibly, it’s all to save the election from ballot thieves (President-elect Joe Biden and the Democratic Party), which, according to President Trump, pulled off the greatest clandestine theft in the history of thievery. So clandestine that the Trump campaign can present no credible evidence that such theft occurred—none.
While they cry fraud to the press and on Twitter and other social media, they persistently avoid such language in court because lying in court has consequences. When asked by either Republican or Democratic appointed judges hearing their claims in dozens of cases whether they are actually claiming fraud, they answer meekly, “no, your honor.”
Given the short shrift with which the courts are dispatching these bogus cases and the swiftness with which major law firms are dropping their Katzenjammer clients, it’s hard to rationalize how this legal defense money is, or will be, spent.
Well, just kidding. It seems that relatively little of the money is really intended for paying election legal and vote-recount expenses. The Official Election Defense Fund, writ very large, is simply what donors think they are funding. In reality, the lion’s share of the money is being siphoned off to President Trump’s new post-election Political Action Committee, Save America, and to the Republican National Committee, writ very small.
So, what are the real recipients of these funds obligated to do with this largess? Well, pretty much whatever Trump chooses to do with the money. It will mostly go toward funding Trump’s campaign debts and his future political and attendant personal whims. The Washington Post reported that only $8.8 million of the $200+ million raised so far has gone toward actual legal expenses, and $3 millions of those dollars went to funding the recount in Wisconsin, which, not surprisingly, wound up adding more votes to Biden. Really, you can’t make up this sort of hijinks.
This week President Trump taped a 46-minute speech from the White House with all the presidency’s trappings, including a podium emblazoned with the presidential seal. He ranted about the rigged election, which no court, nor his own Justice Department, nor the Department of Homeland Security, nor the FBI has found credible. But never mind those details, his rant was quickly “liked” on Twitter 134,000 times and “shared” on Facebook 93,000 times. The band played on, and the money rolled in.
Much of the money flowing into Trump’s post-election-day fund-raising effort has come from small contributors, many of whom have repeatedly doled out bucks in response to the campaign’s repeated appeals.
If it looks like a grift and sounds like a grift, it is probably a grift. It is certainly a grift if most of the donors believe their contributions are mostly going to challenge the election results, which they have been told was fraudulently stolen by the Democrats. That fraudulent claim has generated millions in donations every day since the election. A grift, and a swift grift at that.
Here’s how the scheme works according to the small print. Three-quarters of every donation goes to Trump’s Save America Political Action Committee, and 25% goes to the RNC’s general fund. Only after Trump’s Save America Political Action Committee has received $5,000 from any given donor does the Trump operation’s portion of the donation shift to an election defense or “recount” fund established within the Trump campaign. And only after the RNC portion of a donor’s total reaches $35,500 does that fraction start passing to the dedicated “legal proceedings” funds that the RNC maintains.
That means, according to one statistical analysis, a single person’s donations which are split between the two organizations must hit $6,666.67 before a single penny starts flowing to a dedicated defense or recount fund. Because the fundraising emails and texts are sent to donors who typically give in the $20 or $50 range, the chance that any of the money will go toward what the donors assume they are contributing to is small-to-non-existent. One campaign veteran referred to such a money sharing scheme as a pure bait-and-switch grift.
Joe Walsh, a former Republican congressman who unsuccessfully ran against Trump for the 2020 GOP presidential nomination, said Trump’s fans just don’t believe it. “I’ve brought it up to his supporters,” Walsh said. “They just don’t believe it.”
So, how will the money be used? Well, it appears that the funds routed to Trump’s Save America Political Action Committee (which is the lion’s share of the funds) can be used to pay for salaries or expenses to Trump or any of his Katzenjammer crew or kids who are doing work for the Save America PAC, or fund meeting expenses and meals at, perhaps, any of his pricey hotel properties, or to cover any other of Trump’s political aspirations—possibly a Save America cable television network. Ever since the Fox network correctly called Arizona for Biden, Trump has been fuming about Fox’s role in his election defeat.
What is certain is that long after the dust has settled on the 2020 election and all the fatuous appeals have withered, Trump will have the means to harass the new Biden Administration and engage in considerable self-aggrandizement for years to come.
He’ll have the means to Make America Groan Again…and again.America’s Goebbelsian Moment
Hopefully, it will turn out to have been only a moment. But don’t count on it.
We’ve seen this moment before when the truth is no longer defined as what factually is, but, rather, as that which is in the best interest of some autocrat or some movement or some regime.
Josef Goebbels was the Reich Minister of Enlightenment and Propaganda in Germany from 1933 to 1945. Goebbels demonstrated that a big lie can be devised, aggressively and loudly repeated, and transformed into an ersatz reality. Goebbels’ thinking was not original, but few, if any, before him had ever elevated raw deceit to such exquisite perfection or devasting effect. He was a gaunt, diminutive man, but a giant among liars.
No, I am not suggesting an equivalency between the Trump Administration and the Third Reich. Our democratic institutions are bigger than undemocratic men, and our institutions will prevail. However, I am suggesting that a big lie is extremely dangerous, especially when perpetrated by little men in high places. When endless lies are used for self-serving political ends, the nation, any nation, is the loser. Words do matter, and when they are carefully chosen for the sole purpose of misinforming, they are no longer simply misspoken errors. They are, instead, calculated and dangerous lies.
When President Trump harangues that he won the election…that the election was rigged…that the Democratic Party and Joe Biden engaged in a devious, well-coordinated national conspiracy to steal the election from the American people, he isn’t merely mistaken. Assuming he is not delusional, he is simply lying. He is engaging in a calculated attempt to do what he is accusing his opponents of doing. He is trying to taint, if not steal, an election he lost. He knows he lost. His campaign knows he lost, and most of the country knows he lost.
He began laying the groundwork for his lie before the election. He warned, with no evidence, of a massive fraud being perpetrated. He wanted no voting by mail despite the pandemic, and he wanted all vote counting to cease on the day of the election. With a straight face, President Trump announced to the nation that the votes cast for him were the legal votes and any votes that showed Biden in the lead were the illegal votes. Before the election began, he proclaimed that the Democrats were plotting to steal the election, that they had rigged it. To prove his point, he produced nothing.
Federal Judge Matthew Brann for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, a conservative Republican, a member of the Federalist Society, and even a National Rifle Association straight shooter heard the Trump case and found, “…this court has been presented with strained legal arguments, without merit (emphasis added) and speculative accusations, unpled in the operative complaint and unsupported by evidence (emphasis added)…“like Frankenstein’s Monster haphazardly stitched together.” This is shameful, especially shameful in a case brought by a lame-duck President determined to hold on to power, contrary to the will of a clear majority of the American people.
Then, Friday, a federal appeals court in Philadelphia unanimously rejected yet another effort to challenge the state’s election results. “Free, fair elections are the lifeblood of our democracy. Charges of unfairness are serious. But calling an election unfair does not make it so. Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here,” Judge Stephanos Bibas, a Trump-appointed Republican, wrote for the three-judge panel.
Trump’s groundless allegations are not merely an attack on our election but on our democracy. Republican officials at the state and federal level have bravely attested to the fairness of the election. President Trump immediately fired those within the purview of his office for daring to speak truth to power, and he has lashed out at honest Republican officials who have attested to the fairness of the election in those battleground states that went for Biden.
Thursday, President Trump held an impromptu press conference to simply trash the election. He based his rather unhinged attack on his contention that there was no way “a candidate like Biden” could have attracted so many voters. It seems not to have occurred to President Trump that a candidate like him could have possibly repelled enough voters to make Biden President. That President Trump would behave this way may be shocking, but it isn’t surprising.
His behavior hasn’t been surprising for a long time; not since he publicly basked in the glory of the most massive inaugural crowd in history, except it wasn’t, or the greatest economic growth in history, except it wasn’t, or the greatest civil rights presidency since Lincoln, except it wasn’t, or his spectacular management of the pandemic, except it wasn’t, or that soon the pandemic would miraculously disappear, except it hasn’t, or that Mexico was paying for his wall, except they weren’t, and that China is paying for the tariffs, except they aren’t, that he is a stable genius, except he isn’t, and that there has been a massive nationwide Democratic Party conspiracy to rig and steal the election, except there hasn’t been.
Josef Goebbels had only a newfangled national radio network and posters, printed material, and rallies attended by a rapt and ready Volk, and brown-shirted enforcers to elevate his lies into the Nazi’s deadly group think. Today, however, politicians and miscreants have Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and an army of bots, trolls, sycophants, naïve followers and, of course, committed believers supercharging, sharing, and amplifying whatever prevarications are being handed down from high up, or up from down low.
Goebbels could have only imagined a day when propagandists like him might have the amplification tools provided by today’s social media platforms with their supercomputer learning machines to diminish the judgment of an entire nation and the other nearly four billion social media users worldwide. Lies cleverly packaged and spread on social media excite users like photons excite electrons.
As the saying goes, lies can travel around the world, while truth is still putting its shoes on. Toxic political lies are like a virus, constantly replicating as they are passed along on social media, in the press, and by unsuspecting conveyers and deliberate provocateurs. The lie virus is always harmful and all too often deadly. Political lies are handmaidens to political corruption, no matter the political party. America has been savaged by two terrible viruses this year, one medical and one political, and we may pay a big price for years to come.
America has largely ditched the thoughtfully published press and the carefully written history text for the flotsam of social media. Dumbing down has become a national pastime. We are inculcating a political class that is not only a product of this diminution of intellectual curiosity and critical thinking but, worse, who are exploiters of the decline. Smarter, devious, and far more articulate political operatives are paying attention. They will study and soon adopt the lessons of this Goebbelsian moment.
History doesn’t really repeat itself. Mankind does. History merely takes note. A study last year of 41,000 Americans conducted by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation found that only 27 percent of Americans under 45 have even a basic knowledge of American history. Philosopher George Santayana vastly understated the problem when he taught that those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it. Today, we have a staggering number of Americans who never learned the past in the first place.
Politicians often stretch the truth in speeches or when answering questions in interviews. However, when they concoct campaigns that are predicated on an immense and terrible lie in order to hold on to power, they have chosen a Goebbelsian path to ignominy. That, sadly, is the path President Trump has chosen for his march into history.Trump’s Team of Revilers.
With apologies to Doris Kearns Goodwin, for hitching a ride on her widely acclaimed “Team of Rivals,” which chronicles Abraham Lincoln’s leadership brilliance.
Now, however, the nation is witnessing a full-frontal attack on American Democracy and, yes, the Constitution of the United States by a shameless Team of Revilers, partisan hacks who revile the very notion of an American government of the people, by the people, and for the people.
Shame on them all.
So just who are the varsity members of this abhorrent Team of Revilers. The Chief Reviler of the 2020 election and of the American citizens of both parties, who turned out in record numbers to support the candidate of their choice is, of course, President Donald J. Trump, who demanded that only votes counted by midnight on November 3rd be allowed. Notice, he demanded only votes counted, not votes cast by November 3rd. Votes cast are always counted for days following the day of an election. He outrageously declared victory on the evening of the election when tens of millions of votes were still being counted and after the tide had turned against him.
“Stop the counting!” he demanded, as the vote-counting began to cast a pall over his re-election fantasy. To Donald Trump, there were only those who supported him and those who were conspirators to steal the election. His was a disgraceful performance unparalleled since 1860 when three candidates for President (John Breckinridge, Stephen Douglas, and John Bell) lost to Abraham Lincoln, causing confederate revilers of an American election to attempt to destroy the nation.
Trump’s lawyer and anointed consigliere, Rudy Giuliani, is leading the so-called legal effort to subvert the election. It was a breathtaking performance Friday when Giuliani demanded that the courts grant Trump a fishing license to search for so-called election fraud, a word the Trump’s legal hit squad eschews under oath in court because there are stiff penalties for lying. Giuliani offered evidence of nothing other than what cheap hair coloring does under the heat of floodlights. So closely did he seem to be channeling the late Joseph McCarthy with his wild, unsubstantiated allegations that we waited for him to wave a list of 67 communists who worked in the Pennsylvania Bureau of Commissions, Elections and Legislation, which oversees the Commonwealth’s electoral process. Instead, he channeled Cousin Vinnie.
Trump legal-team associate, Sydney Powell, was also there claiming, without a shred of evidence, that massive amounts of communist money was behind the Biden conspiracy to steal the election, throwing in all the hobgoblins, including Venezuela, Cuba, China, George Soros, the Clinton Foundation and maybe, we presume, even Ichabod Crane. Appropriately, the federal judge in front of whom this farce played out has already thrown the case out of court, his disgust with President Trump’s Team of Revilers plainly evident.
Vice President Mike Pence seems a somewhat reluctant participant in the reviler’s farce, but a participant nonetheless. He sanctimoniously, with a straight face, flew to Atlanta, Georgia, to demand that every legal vote be counted and that every illegal vote be eliminated, especially, we presume, every illegal ballot that is being alleged without evidence. Well, he got his wish. Georgia meticulously counted every vote again, by hand, and, other than a negligible number of votes discounted for routine irregularities, confirmed Biden’s win there. Trump single-handedly managed to turn Georgia blue. We await Pence’s congratulatory nod to President-elect Biden’s election victory in the Peach State now that every legal vote has been counted and every illegal vote has been eliminated.
Lindsey Graham weighed in at the last moment to join the Team of Revilers. According to Georgia Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, Graham, who is Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, called him to strongly hint that he should find a way to eliminate votes from areas that went for Biden. Graham apparently called other Republican election officials in other close-call states.
Senator Ted Cruz has weighed in more as a member of the junior varsity Team of Revilers, stating that he believes Trump has a path to victory. He too, intones that every legal vote should be counted and that every illegal vote should be eliminated. No one disagrees that only legal votes should be counted. But the reality is that there are irregularities, mistakes, and, perhaps, real cases of voter fraud here and there in every election. Someone may cast a vote for their recently deceased spouse, who is still on a voter roll somewhere. There are appropriate recounts, especially in close elections. They invariably toss out some votes but never really change the reality of an election where someone wins a precinct or a county or a state by a substantial number of votes.
What this Team of Revilers is doing is a national disgrace. They are not working to ensure that every legal vote is counted and every illegal vote is eliminated. They are trying to mandate eliminating vast swaths of votes in individual battleground states that Trump lost. They are trying to subvert the will of the people, not protect it.
One just has to watch and listen to President Trump’s rantings, or Rudy Giuliani or their cohorts to comprehend the ludicrous and dangerous game they are playing. As the pandemic rages out of control, they impede the transition of power. They slap at the truth on Trump’s behalf, as Trump slaps at golf balls at his nearby Virginia golf course. Their audacity is breathtaking to behold as the nation watches the tangled web they weave as they practice to deceive (thank you, Sir Walter Scott).
Most reprehensively, they are working hard to impugn the integrity of really altruistic American election workers, Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, who have worked long hours in truly dedicated fashion to proudly play a role in American Democracy. This Trumpian Team of Revilers cloak themselves in the flag and simultaneously rip at the very sinews of American Democracy.The Opposing Lessons of the 2020 Election
(1) The majority of Americans have had it with Trump. And —
(2) they have also had it with the Siren Song of the far left.
No more crisis mismanagement, tantrums and distemper from the Oval Office, and no more talk of doing away with the police or embracing Socialism, Marxism, or any other sobriquet for dismantling the most promising, if imperfect, economy the world has ever known.
The first lesson has cost Donald Trump the Presidency, possibly by more than 7 to 8 million votes when all remaining ballots are counted. Biden has won 306 electoral votes (assuming there is no coup), the same number of electoral votes won by President Trump in 2016, which Trump trumpeted as a landslide.
The second lesson (rejection of perceived hard-left ideology) has cost the Democrats the Senate and nearly the House of Representatives. A clear majority of Americans have rejected political pandemonium in both the executive and legislative branches of government. Most (but certainly not all) Americans yearn for a return to political sanity.
Trump’s Theater of the Absurd
President Trump and a band of Trump acolytes are conducting themselves horribly in the aftermath of the election. Trump had insisted that every legal vote be counted while, simultaneously, announcing that the definition of a legal vote was a Trump vote and the definition of an illegal vote was a Biden vote. He, outrageously, insisted that all vote counting cease at the end of the day on November 3rd.
While winners of elections have sometimes been projected on the evening of an election, votes are always counted for days after an election, and winners are generally not determined on the evening of an election.
Now, Trump is sending armies of lawyers to contest every battleground-state election he lost with spurious suits that are being dismissed by the courts as groundless as soon as the attorneys present their evidence-anemic cases. One can only speculate what the intended purpose is of the tens of millions of dollars being raised, supposedly, to fight the results of the election.
Given the short shrift the courts are making of the evidence-anemic cases being presented, just what is the intended purpose of the stash of cash being accumulated by Trump and his Katzenjammer crew? Well, a quick glance at the fine print of Trump’s “Official Election Defense Fund” provides rather illuminating answers. According to Reuters, one of the world’s oldest and most respected news organizations, a donor would have to give more than $8,000 to the so-called Election Defense Fund before any money goes to challenging the results of the election. Most of the money will go to “Save America,” a Trump leadership Political Action Committee, set up a week ago, and to the Republican National Committee. Both organizations have substantial leeway to do whatever they want with the funds.
Virtually every credible election authority has dismissed the Trump allegations of election fraud as spurious nonsense including those officials within the Trump Administration charged with responsibility for assuring election integrity, as well as Republican officials responsible for election integrity at the state level.
It seems clear that Trump has no intention of conceding the election, nor is his concession necessary. It is noteworthy, however, that virtually all other losing candidates have had the class and grace to concede when they have lost an election, including Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Mitt Romney and George H. W. Bush to name a recent few. Interestingly, John McCain, whose well-earned status as an American hero drove Trump to utter distraction, delivered one of the classiest concession speeches ever accorded to an opponent, Barack Obama, whose class and popularity also drives Trump crazy.
The 45th presidency of the United States ends at noon on January 20th 2021, and the 46th presidency, that of Joseph R. Biden, commences concurrently. At some point there becomes a fine line between contesting an election and attempting to seize power. No one has ever tried to do the latter in America, but autocrats try it all too frequently. Let us beware.
Rejecting the Siren Song of the far left
A civil society cannot endure without well-policed law enforcement. Yes, we all understand that there have been abuses, sometimes deadly, often racially motivated, at the hands of uniformed police officers. Great effort has been made and must be redoubled to rout out miscreants who bring shame to law enforcement. There is no segment of society, however, that cringes more when bad cops do bad things than good cops who work every day doing good things. And the good cops are the norm.
Loud and strident demands to do away with the police, and, make no mistake about it, that is what many in the so-called defund movement are advocating, have freaked out tens of millions of Americans, democrats and republicans alike. The defund movement, which deteriorated into reckless bombast with no place to go, unquestionably cost Democrats millions of votes. Voters who have had it with Trump had no problem voting for Republican legislators at both the federal and state level who they believe, correctly or incorrectly, are more committed to supporting law enforcement.
Laisse-faire capitalism has been dead in America since the end of the robber-baron era at the dawn of the 20th century, and good riddance. For nearly all of the past century Americans have lived with a slowly strengthening but comparatively weak safety net underpinning their daily existence. Compared to the rest of the developed world, including those nations with the most committed market-oriented economies, we provide a much weaker safety net for our citizens.
For instance, in America contributions to social security equal about 6% of GDP. In Germany, which hosts a strong and vibrant market-oriented economy, social security contributions represent 14 percent of GDP. Strengthening the social safety net in America should be on the national agenda for discussion without engendering the predictable tired and worn fears of socialism and Marxism.
Those who advocate a stronger safety net for the American people are quickly saddled with socialist, if not Marxist labels. And, of course, we have always had an assortment of bonafide socialists in the public square, seriously advocating for real economic socialism, i.e. control, if not ownership, of the means of production. The noise makes rational discussion and consideration nearly impossible.
Most Americans believe, or want to believe, in the American dream—that everyone can get ahead and rise to the full level of their potential. Many, perhaps most Americans, and certainly this writer, recoil at the thought of living under a stringent, planned, non-market-oriented economy that they see as the death knell for the American dream. So political campaigns that throw around terms like socialism turn off millions of voters. Here too, millions of voters who have had it with Trump, still tilted toward legislators at all levels of government who they believe will protect them from the imposition of socialism, let alone Marxism.
The message the majority of Americans have decisively sent in this election is that they can reject Trumpism and also reject what they see as political radicalism.
The election and the electorate both performed exceedingly well.Election 2020.
President Donald J. Trump has become the 10th President of the United States to be denied a second term by the voters since Americans began choosing Presidents 232 years ago. President-elect Biden will become the 46th President of the United States, having prevailed over President Trump by an estimated 5.0 to 6.0 million+ votes when all votes are counted, and by an apparent electoral college margin of 306 to 215.
There is a lot to unpack in this election.
In this election, President-elect Biden received the largest vote of any President in the history of the United States. In this same election, President Trump received the second-largest vote of anyone who has ever run for President of the United States, topping his own 2016 vote total.
What does this tell us?
Probably not what I initially thought, and probably not what I presume many Americans may yet believe. As the election totals began to take shape, my first assumption was that approximately one-half of the country’s voters were solid Trump voters; that, maybe, America looked a lot more like Poland and Hungry than I had ever imagined. That is, nearly half of America was inclined toward authoritarianism and had voted for an authoritarian President. As I have listened to and read voter responses, I have come to a different conclusion. I don’t think President Trump’s solid base has grown much, if at all. However, I believe that many voters were (are) simply not enthusiastic about a Biden Presidency. They decided to stick with what they had, rather than support a candidate who they see as old, not exciting, and on whom enough of the mud stuck that was thrown by President Trump and an army of sycophants, social media bots, trolls, and other miscreants. Biden had been relentlessly characterized as a Trojan Horse for Marxists, a closet socialist, a pedophile, a corrupt family crime boss, and a mask-wearing wimp who was afraid of a tiny virus the Trump Administration was successfully quashing and on which the Trump-team was turning the corner. There was, I believe, a substantial vote against Biden that didn’t represent a besotted embrace of Trump or Trumpism.
One can rightly conclude from President Trump’s pronouncements from the White House during and immediately following the election that he is, indeed, an authoritarian in mind as well as in practice. He concluded that while the vote was still in process, he had already won the legal vote and that voting should be stopped (except where Trump, incorrectly, presumed he would win). He doubled down later in the week, declaring that he had won the legal vote, and, with no credible evidence, that the remaining voting was a mélange of skullduggery. His fulminations were breathtaking and unprecedented in American history. Worse, they were the pronouncements and the behavior of an authoritarian. But for the law, he would have canceled the election.
Republicans, in general, did well in this election, increasing their seats in the House of Representatives and, it appears, holding on to the Senate. Some are attributing that to President Trump’s coattails in less liberal areas of the country. Maybe. But I think there is a far more critical message being sent with these strong Republican showings. That is that the far-left wing of the Democratic Party has spooked much of the electorate. Most Americans can recognize the need to address and eliminate racism in law enforcement and criminal justice without embracing the idiocy of the defund the police movement. Like this writer, most Americans have enormous respect for men and women who have committed their careers to law enforcement. Most Americans rightly recoil that anyone can find anything redeeming in looting or arson. Politicians and activists were handed a powerful megaphone during the aftermath of the George Floyd killing. Some used that megaphone constructively. Many did not. I believe the Defund movement and whatever tolerance there was of looting and arson cost the Democrats dearly in many areas of the country.
As this essay wraps, it appears as though Joe Biden is on the cusp of winning Arizona. If he does prevail there, he will be the first Democrat to do so in twenty-four years. If the final result turns out that way, it will be attributable primarily to the unforced error Trump committed with his gratuitous and non-sensical attacks against Arizona’s favorite son, John McCain. Trump seemed jealous and resentful of the respect and admiration so many people accorded John McCain, for the late Senator’s service to our country, his heroism, and even the nation’s final goodbye to Arizona’s five-term Senator. President Trump’s petulant behavior toward Senator McCain was, like so much else attributable to this President, unpresidential. It appears the people of Arizona didn’t forget it.Confessions of a Former Republican
So, I am now officially registered as an unaffiliated voter.
This unaffiliated status follows fifty-five years as a registered Republican. The first President I voted for was Democrat John F. Kennedy. I was twenty-two. The last Democrat I voted for before becoming a Republican in 1965 was Lyndon Johnson. I was twenty-seven.
I am a product of Washington, DC, where I grew up and spent the early years of my career. After graduating from the University of Maryland, my first job was in marketing research as a project director for a small, well-respected marketing research firm in Washington, Walter Gerson, and Associates. One of my clients, a trade journal, accorded me press credentials, which turned me into a lifelong political junkie. I was present, front and center, at the Capitol’s east portico for John F. Kennedy’s Ask Not What Your Country Can Do for You, Ask What You Can do for Your Country inaugural address. I attended every Administration press conference I could whether it pertained to my client’s business or not. I loved being in the city, if not the room, where it happened.
After that, I became Vice President for Marketing Research for a Washington-New York advertising agency, The Manchester Organizations. I thoroughly enjoyed doing opinion research for a diverse clientele during those early years, including broadcast networks, food chains, national publications, consumer product companies, and a politician here and there.
In 1964, the late Larry Hogan (the father of the current Governor of Maryland) and I became partners in a public relations, advertising, and Washington association-management firm. I was twenty-six. Larry Hogan and I liked the idea that we, as partners in the business, were in different parties. After all, some prospective clients might be Democrats, and some might be Republicans.
But I left the Democratic Party and became a Republican in 1965 when I realized the extent of Lyndon Johnson’s deceit during his 1964 election campaign against Barry Goldwater. I had voted for Johnson. At a campaign appearance in Ohio in the fall of 1964, Johnson promised, “we are not about to send American boys 9,000 or 10,000 miles away from home (to Vietnam) to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves.“
However, Johnson’s plan to escalate the war immediately after the election was already baked into the cake. On February 13, 1965, and less than a month after his inauguration (I remember because it was my 27th birthday), President Johnson authorized Operation Rolling Thunder, the continuous bombing of North Vietnam. A month later, the first 3500 US marine combat troops were on the ground, and by the end of the year, 185,000 US troops had followed them there. By the end of Johnson’s second year, he had called up over 400,000 men, among the first of 2,700,000 who would eventually see combat there. Fifty thousand would never return.
Frankly, it wasn’t the war itself that bothered me so much—not at first, anyway. Then, I had no way of judging the justification for the war, and I had completed my military service years earlier. As did most Americans at the time, I also believed that the Gulf of Tonkin incident, which was the linchpin for Rolling Thunder, involved an unprovoked attack on one of our ships in international waters. Subsequent investigations have determined that it was simply not true. No, it was, simply, Johnson’s bold-faced deceit during the ’64 campaign regarding his plans for the war that infuriated me.
Barry Goldwater had been warning that we were in a war in Vietnam, while Johnson was campaigning that we were not, nor were we about to send American troops to such a war. Johnson even campaigned that Goldwater would get us bogged down in war, but he would keep us out of the war. His clever but outrageous daisy commercial that suggested a Goldwater election would lead to nuclear annihilation is still an iconic reminder of just how deceitful Johnson’s campaign was.
He was lying about his intentions to escalate the war. I was furious and perhaps naïve. Notwithstanding Johnson’s remarkable success in passing the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964, I became a Republican, and I remained a Republican for the next half-century.
I was not merely registered as a Republican, but, in those early days, I was an active Republican. I was a senior strategist in one of the greatest Republican congressional upsets ever (Maryland’s 5th congressional district – Hogan vs. Machen, 1968). I wrote numerous campaign speeches (and even delivered a few when there were conflicts in Hogan’s schedule). I designed and managed political polls, participated in campaign strategy meetings, and handled all campaign advertising.
Larry Hogan and I sold our agency following his election to Congress to avoid any semblance of conflict, given that many of our clients required Washington representation.
In 1972, after Republican Larry Hogan had won three successive elections in Maryland’s heavily Democratic fifth district, my wife and I and our two young children relocated to Chicago where I joined the senior management team of a, then, newly public company, Waste Management, Inc., and there I remained for the next twenty years.
Since retiring I spend much of my tme writing historical fiction and publishing these weekly essays, of which this is the 485th. The first of this long series, “A Stimulus That Would Work,” was published on July 21, 2009.
So, I have been a Republican for over 50 years. What were the Republican principles that appealed to me? Well, mostly, that rampant growth of government sooner or later becomes burdensome to the very people government is there to serve, and that chronic deficits and excessive debt do matter.
I also believe that protectionism and trade barriers are, on balance, inconsistent with healthy global trade and not in the United States’ best interest. Nations that consume more goods than they produce will always have trade deficits, and we are one of the most consuming nations in the world. We will probably always consume more goods than we produce. Trade deficits are not a hobgoblin.
I believe that unfair trade practices should be dealt with collectively through international agreements. Unified action is preferable to the unilateral imposition of protective tariffs and the trade wars they produce. Generally, tariffs simply keep the cost of goods artificially high, and I believe they are inconsistent with promoting a robust and healthy economy. America’s position in high-tech, artificial intelligence, and other services will grow and play an ever-increasing role in world trade even as facets of the more traditional goods sector face growing pressure from rapidly emerging nations.
Tariffs will not provide long-term protection for industries that face competition from suppliers abroad who offer competitive products at a competitive cost. For example, steel tariffs are applied to the importation of imported raw steel but not to imported finished goods. So, foreign finished goods produced with foreign steel now compete with US finished goods made with steel that is now more expensive because of the tariffs. As a result, the Federal Reserve estimates that the steel tariffs have already resulted in the loss of 75,000 American jobs.
Tough tariffs provide pseudo-tough politicians with swagger, but they do not do much for the economy. Need proof? Our trade deficits have increased every year since Trump imposed his tariffs over what the trade deficits were when Obama left office. Our trade deficits in manufactured or agricultural goods with China are today approximately the same as they were when Trump imposed his tariffs. In the meantime, China’s retaliatory response decimated sectors of our agricultural industry, which in turn has necessitated tens of billions of dollars of aid to our farmers.
Our trade deficit in manufactured or agricultural goods during the Obama Administration’s last year was $346,825,000. Last year, with Trump’s tariffs, the trade deficit was 345,204,000, and the year before that, the deficit was $418,953,000. Lots of swagger, but not much difference in deficits.
My major issue in leaving the Republican Party isn’t with President Trump as much as it is with the GOP, my Old Party with the Grand awol. President Trump is neither true nor faithful to his Party nor its traditional principles. That’s not surprising, given that he has changed party affiliation five times. The Republican Party has become besotted with the President, principles be damned. For this, I suspect the Party will pay a stiff, and perhaps, a long-enduring penalty.
The Republican Party’s lockstep conformity with President Trump’s whims and wishes, at least until it dawned on several Republicans that the nation was taking note, has been harmful to both the country and the Party itself. It may very well cost the Republican Party both the Presidency and the United States Senate in a couple of days.
Hyperbole is common in political campaigns, but Goebbelsian shameful whoppers such as “I saved your suburban neighborhoods,” or “I beat the pandemic,” or “we’re turning the corner,” as the pandemic exceeds 100,000 new cases a day, or “I’ve done more for black Americans than anyone since, maybe, Abraham Lincoln,” or that “I produced the greatest economy the world has ever seen,” or his boast that he has a beautiful relationship with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, who simultaneously brandishes brand new monster nuclear missiles the size of Trump Tower capable of reaching any city in the United States.
When President Trump brags about the great pre-pandemic economy, he is largely praising the economy President Obama left him following the disaster Bush 43 handed Obama. Economic growth, employment growth, and household income improvement are all marginal incremental additions to Obama’s final years in the White House.
Specifically, Under Obama, from 2014 to 2016, GDP grew at an average annual rate of 2.5%. In Trump’s first three years, 2017 through 2019, real GDP expanded by an annual average of 2.6%—incremental and marginal growth. The US economy added 6.6 million jobs in Trump’s first three years, shy of the 8.1 million payroll gains in the last three years under Obama.
From the end of 2016 to the close of 2019, the nation added 1.27 million blue-collar jobs in construction and manufacturing, although factory jobs flatlined in 2019 thanks largely to Trump tariffs. During Obama’s last three years, construction and manufacturing gained 1.13 million jobs. While unemployment rates among Blacks, Asians, and Latinos dropped to their lowest rate in history under Trump, the actual change (or improvement) was greater under Obama.
Comparing Obama’s last three years as President, with Trump’s first three years, median income grew by 8.4%, slightly better than during President Trump’s first three years as President.
Both political parties have had their ups and downs over the years. The Republican Party has produced some of America’s most beloved Presidents. Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan quickly come to mind. Republicans have also had their Warren Hardings, Herbert Hoovers, and Richard Nixons. But Donald Trump seems to be in a world of his own, and just about the entire Republican Party has embraced Trump’s world.
The Nixonian Watergate nightmare represented a dark time for the Republican Party, but many Republicans acquitted themselves honorably when their President acted dishonorably. My former partner and dear friend, the late Larry Hogan, comes to mind. He became the first conservative Republican on the Rodino House Judiciary Committee to announce that he was voting for all three Articles of Impeachment against Nixon. His statement to the Committee is a veritable civics lesson. You can watch it by googling, “Larry Hogan Watergate.” He knew his decision meant he would lose what had become the safest Republican seat in the House. He knew his own Republican Party would turn him out in the next primary. I know that to be true because he called me the night before the vote. He was heartsick, but he knew what he had to do. Republican Senator Howard Baker of Tennessee was a dogged pursuer of facts during the Senate Watergate Committee hearings chaired by Democratic Senator Sam Irvin. Barry Goldwater went to the White House to tell Nixon he was through.
Today’s Republican Party has become the Party of Trump. The Party is silent on his demagoguery, on his dog whistles, on his tariffs, gargantuan deficits, and super-spreader, inane name-calling rallies. Far too many Republicans are eager to embrace his highly exaggerated claims of great accomplishment, either afraid to cross him or hopeful that his followers will also follow them. Such sycophantic behavior rarely turns out well.
One of the most treasured books in our library is an original edition of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Self Reliance.” It teaches reliance on one’s introspection rather than the noise of the crowd; serious critical thinking rather than groupthink. Great leaders take their counsel in the realm of serious reflection rather than the rancor of raucous rallies.
I didn’t sign up for unwavering loyalty to a man, any man, when I became a Republican fifty-five years ago. Sometimes party loyalty can, indeed, demand too much. So, I’m out.No Coattails for Senate Republicans: It’s Every Senator for Himself or Herself.
While there are some states that are (and have been) solidly red states that both Trump and the other Republican candidates will dominate, there will be no presidential coattails for other GOP senators to hold onto. Grabbing onto President Trump’s coattails will be like grabbing the tail of a Green Iguana. All one would wind up with is the president’s coattail in their hand.
Indeed, one can make the case that in solidly red states strong Republican Senators may pull Trump along with them. Republican Senators such as Cotton (AR), Inhofe (OK), and Rounds (SD), are a few of the Republican Senators probably pulling along the President in their wake.
There are ten states that are solidly Republican and which one can assume Trump will win handily. For example, Wyoming, Oklahoma, Utah, Idaho, West Virginia, North Dakota, Arkansas, Kentucky Alabama and Nebraska are unquestionably going to be red on every tv broadcast election map on November 3rd. There will, of course, be other red-leaning states that will also go Trump’s way on election night. But if the polls are to be believed, Trump’s way will not be the way to White House.
It isn’t difficult to understand where Trump’s handling of the pandemic has made Republican candidates nervous. His huge pre-pandemic budget deficits, his incessant dog whistles, his alienation of traditional allies, as well as his adolescent schoolyard tantrums, have added unwelcome baggage to the load these senators are carrying. One just has to focus on where Republican senators are making it a point to distance themselves from their president. For example, first-term North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis is expressing his strong support for Dr. Fauci, who Trump now describes as a disaster…an idiot, and so is Republican Steve Daines who is in a nail biter of an election in Montana. Given the very reasonable chance that Democrats could flip Colorado, Arizona, Maine, South Carolina, Alaska, and quite possibly Iowa and Florida, few Republican incumbents are counting on riding Trump’s coattails to Washington.
President Trump’s base is solid. His base, however, and traditional Republican voters are not one and the same. If you are still reading today’s column, you are reading the perspective of a formerly traditional Republican voter, (for most of the last half century, anyway). The President is in trouble in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and North Carolina, all states that he handily won in 2016. Even Georgia and Ohio are up for grabs.
Many national elections (and even more years) have come and gone since I conducted polls for a political candidate, but I have never looked at a more fascinating political map than that which we see today. There is a lot of purple out there.
If Trump should continue to sink in the polls, and that’s a big if, then-Republican influence in Washington is going to sink, or at least dampen, considerably. So many Republicans, whether they are standing for re-election this year or not, have begun to distance themselves from the President. This suggests, of course, that many Republicans believe President Trump is about to lose the presidency and are now eager to re-establish their conservative bona fides for their constituents back home. This is more than a little laughable given their rather uniform acquiescence to trillion-dollar pre-pandemic deficit spending, tariffs that have not reduced trade deficits one iota from those of the Obama years (in fact, trade deficits have steadily increased during the Trump years), and an onslaught of governance by executive order from the White House.
Republican Senators are now embracing a dramatic return to conservative fiscal orthodoxy on, of all things, the pandemic relief package that is being negotiated between House leader Pelosi and the Administration. Where are the Republicans howling about proposed government spending? Certainly not over military spending, certainly not over expensive new initiatives such as the new Space Force, certainly not over Trump’s wall, and certainly not over massive assistance to help farmers who have lost billions because of Trump’s tariff war. No, they’re drawing a line in the sand over relief for American families and businesses that have been mauled largely because of Trump’s mismanagement of the pandemic.
Listen to Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee. “There’s no appetite right now to spend the White House number or the House number.”
And then there’s Senator Marsha Blackburn, also of Tennessee, who warns that even entertaining a bill with Speaker Pelosi’s support would amount to a “death knell” for Republican control of the Senate. It would, she said, “deflate” the Republican base. Suddenly, and belatedly, Senate Republicans are rushing to protect their credentials as fiscal conservatives.
Wyoming Republican, John Barrasso, warns that legislation that expands certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act to liberalize coverage during the pandemic would amount to “an enormous betrayal of Republican voters.” Really?
Rick Scott, of Florida commenting on the Trump Administration’s efforts to reach a generous deal with House Democrats provided some insight into Republican mentality during this pandemic. He declared, “I just don’t get it.”
In fairness, several Republican Senators have been urging the leadership to compromise with the House, but their pleas are falling on deaf ears. McConnell has but one mission before the election; rushing through confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. Regarding the plight of millions of families severely burdened by the pandemic, well, what’s the hurry?
The United States Senate is in play. As for the 23 Republican Senators who are standing for re-election; they’re mostly on their own. To paraphrase Senator Scott, “they just don’t get it.”