What Republicans Are For

Political parties usually tell voters what they want to do. One way is to write a party platform when they nominate somebody for president. The Democrats did it for the 2020 election. The Republicans didn’t. Instead, they said they’d continue to support (i.e. bow down to) the person they were nominating:

. . . in the context of a pandemic, recession, social inequity, and climate crisis the party’s policy is simply:

RESOLVED, That the Republican Party has and will continue to enthusiastically support the President’s America-first agenda.”

It is hard to read this “platform” as anything other than “we stand for whatever D____ T____ wants” [Brookings Institution]. 

In other words, l’etat c’est moi (or rather, l’etat c’est lui).

Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post explains why the Republicans still don’t want to spell out what they’re for:

President Biden at his news conference last week asked the question that the media should have been asking Republicans for months: “What are they for?”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) won’t say. Asked last week what was in Republicans’ agenda if they regain control of Congress, McConnell told reporters: “That is a very good question. And I’ll let you know when we take it back.”

Consider the arrogance and disdain for voters inherent in that answer. Responsiveness to the voters? Solutions to the problems they complain about, such as inflation? Only suckers would care about such things, Republicans seem to believe. They prefer to spend their time concocting cultural wedge issues, spreading conspiracy theories and obstructing progress on issues for which there is broad, bipartisan consensus (e.g., a path to citizenship, reasonable gun laws).

But it would be misleading to say Republicans are not for anything; they certainly do have an agenda. The problem is that it is so unpopular they dare not remind voters about their plans.

Republicans have clear views on taxes. They want to protect the super-rich from paying more taxes, even though billionaires became 62 percent richer during the pandemic and many pay practically no federal income taxes. And Republicans really don’t want corporations to pay their fair share either. They favor keeping the corporate tax rate at 21 percent, even though corporate income taxes make up a mere 7 percent of federal revenue. (The Tax Policy Center reports: “Revenue from [corporate taxes] has fallen from an average of 3.7 percent of GDP in the late 1960s to an average of just 1.4 percent of GDP over the past five years, and 1.1 percent of GDP most recently in 2019.”)

Republicans are also for underfunding the Internal Revenue Service so that the agency does not have adequate resources to enforce existing tax laws. And they would like to do away with the child tax credit that cut child poverty by 40 percent. It is not a stretch to say Republicans actively promote income and wealth inequality.

Republicans are in favor of forcing women to continue pregnancies and giving birth, even in cases of rape and incest. They also delight in incentivizing Americans to spy on pregnant women whose reproductive choices don’t match the party’s religious doctrine and to turn them in for bounties. Meanwhile, they strenuously favor protecting anyone who refuses to be vaccinated or wear a mask. In other words, Republicans favor “personal choice” when it comes to preventing the spread of a deadly disease, but not when it comes to a woman’s body.

Republicans are all in when it comes to keeping in place monuments to the slave-owning traitors of the Confederacy; removing anything from school curriculum that might make White people feel uncomfortable, including Martin Luther King Jr. and the KKK; and stopping the FBI from investigating death threats against school board members and other public officials. No wonder white supremacists are so enamored with the GOP these days.

Republicans are also the best friends of climate change. Why else would they oppose the Paris accords, new subsidies for green energy, measures to phase out of coal and higher car mileage standards? They are, however, all for emergency aid when extreme weather strikes — but only for their own states.

And now we know Republicans are devoted to making voting harder and giving Republican lawmakers the ability to elbow out nonpartisan election officials so they can control vote-counting. They are definitely for respecting election outcomes — only when they win.

You don’t have to be a mind reader to figure out why McConnell wants to conceal Republicans’ agenda for as long as possible. . . . 

So What Are We Going To Do About It?

Will Bunch of The Philadelphia Inquirer sounds a painfully loud alarm some don’t seem to hear:

. . . It sounded more like a plot twist from a really bad self-published political thriller than real life: A 38-page plan for President T____ to declare a “National Security Emergency” and seize ballots as part of a wider effort around Jan. 6 to prevent the certification of Joe Biden as [his] successor.

According to one slide from the presentation that T____’s top aide, then-chief of staff Mark Meadows, viewed and later turned over to congressional investigators, the president would endorse a bat guano-crazy conspiracy about Chinese interference in the 2020 presidential election as a pretext to declare all electronic votes invalid.

It’s the kind of transparently fake and utterly corrupt coup that you’d only expect to see in the type of less-developed country we used to call a banana republic. But as the Washington Post and other outlets reported this week, the wackadoodle plan for T____ to stay in office after losing an election, thus ending American democracy, was circulated on Capitol Hill just two days before 147 Republicans indeed voted against certifying Biden’s wins in key states.

I know, it seems kind of funny — this nerdy tech tool that Bill Gates and his Microsoft monolith acquired to propel regional sales meetings in Duluth instead being used in the plot to end the American Experiment after 245 years. But the quickening flow of leaks and new discoveries from the House committee probing the Jan. 6 insurrection is no laughing matter.

Even though it should have been obvious in real time — an angry mob, urged by T____ himself first to come to Washington on Jan. 6 and then to march on the U.S. Capitol, where there was a violent clash with police, injuring some 150 officers and killing five, thus disrupting Congress and the certification of Biden’s victory for hours — the new disclosures have brought into sharper focus what the president’s men knew and when they knew it. Jan. 6 was a far greater threat to American democracy than Watergate, or anything else that’s happened since the first shots at Fort Sumter. Now, the questions are becoming less about what we know, and more about … what are we going to do about this?

Last week saw a cluster of news stories — some coming from the slowly forward-moving House select committee — that continue to confirm greater White House involvement in Jan. 6 planning. This clearer picture also shows an escalating, increasingly desperate T____-led effort to block the fair and legitimate counting of the 2020 votes, from the courts to the corridors of Congress to, finally, the bloody barricades.

For example, a report that two of the Jan. 6 event organizers met privately with T____ in a White House dining room just two days before the insurrection should cement the idea that the events leading up to the fateful day were closely coordinated with the president and his inner circle — a point that was arguably already driven home by recent confirmation of a Jan. 6 “war room” run by close T____ associates at the Willard Hotel.

But other new what-the-heck disclosures about the events leading up to Jan. 6 are a reminder that there are still things we don’t know or fully understand. . . . 

The sum impact of these disclosures should pressure the House committee to both speed up the pace of its methodical investigation and also to hold more public hearings — the arena where the average voter is more likely to watch and understand the threat to the peaceful transfer of power that was posed on Jan. 6. In a perfect world, both the new bombshell revelations and high-profile hearings in the mode of 1973′s Watergate Summer would light a match under the Justice Department and deer-in-the-headlights Attorney General Merrick Garland.

High-stakes public hearings might also shake the Beltway inertia that the threat to democracy posed by the insurrection should take a backseat to other matters having more impact on voters’ day-to-day lives, including the never-ending pandemic and the economic aftershocks, good and bad. Many in the elite Washington media seem to have adopted the mantra that it’s time to move on from Jan. 6, especially since any coup ambitions were seemingly thwarted with President Biden’s inauguration. Some tried to tamp down the disclosure of the coup-plotting PowerPoint circulating among T____’s highest aides and congressional allies, arguing that the existence of the document isn’t “a hair-on-fire moment” for the American system.

The Washington Post reported Saturday that the originator of the PowerPoint plan appears to be a Texas-based retired Army colonel (who, interestingly, specialized in psyops) named Phil Waldron, who’d managed to first get his ideas and then himself woven into T____’s inner circle, including a close relationship with the president’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani. . . . He told the Post he visited the White House multiple times in the days after the November 2020 election, met personally with Meadows and was part of those critical pre-Jan. 6 briefings on Capitol Hill. Waldron also said he met personally with T____ and “several Pennsylvania legislators” in the Oval Office last Nov. 25 . . . 

As crazy as Waldron’s claims of Chinese-led election tampering or his remedies of seizing paper ballots under a “national security emergency” might sound, it’s important to understand how close this plot came to succeeding. If days of hounding and pressuring then-Vice President Mike Pence to go along with the plan had worked, or if the subsequent violence had created a pathway for T____ to send in Army troops to seize control of the Capitol before Biden’s certification, America would have been plunged into . . . chaos.

The unsavory cast of characters that Team T____ was dealing with prior to Jan. 6 were the political equivalent of walking into a mobbed-up bar and trying to hire a hitman — to whack U.S. democracy. Hiring a hitman is considered a felony, even when no one is ultimately killed, and so is a plot to overthrow the American government, even if it fell short. It’s past time for Congress, Garland, the media and other key players to see this.

But there’s an even more important reason for the Jan. 6 disclosures to be seen and understood as the most important story in America right now: Bolstered by the lack of consequences so far for T____ and his inner circle, the coup attempt is ongoing. As the unpunished leader of a Republican Party that this antidemocracy ex-president has now spent six years bending to his will, T____ is currently leading an effort to change laws and remove any balky GOP officials who thwarted him in 2020 — to make sure he will be declared the winner in 2024, regardless of the reality-based vote count.

The New York Times reported this weekend that many believers in T____’s stolen-election conspiracy theories or even people who traveled to Washington on Jan. 6 are winning or the early favorites for a number of key vote-counting positions for 2022 and 2024, from the new judge of elections in the small town of Mt. Joy, Pa., to the powerful secretaries of state in the battlegrounds that cost T____ the presidency last year.

“This is a five-alarm fire,” Jocelyn Benson, Michigan’s Democratic secretary of state, told the Times, adding: “If people in general, leaders and citizens, aren’t taking this as the most important issue of our time and acting accordingly, then we may not be able to ensure democracy prevails again in ‘24.”

Unfortunately, not enough people are acting accordingly. Any student of the last century of world history knows the seriousness of underestimating the rise of authoritarianism in far-flung precincts, that while the media is obsessing on the petty squabbles among, say, the Social Democrats, or the delusions of a decrepit ruling class, a madman who failed but learned from one aborted putsch is busy perfecting the second assault.

The only thing wrong with describing the PowerPoint for an all-American coup as a “hair-on-fire moment” is that the term is way too small to describe the existential threat that’s smoldering, unextinguished, in the rotting foundation of the United States and its increasingly haywire experiment. It’s been said before, but whatever you would have done in 1933 Germany or 1963 Alabama is what you are doing in 2021 America. We can speed up the hearings, put the biggest story on the front page, and arrest the coup plotters, or we can let the fire burn. The choice is ours.

If You Care About American Democracy and the Truth

The Atlantic magazine isn’t afraid to publish long articles. Today they published one that every American who cares about the future of this country should read, or at least skim (or, if you happen to be reading this, trust your humble blogger to summarize. The Atlantic article is 13,000 words long. This post, with my contributions in italics, is 2,600).

The article is called “T____’s Next Coup Has Already Begun”. Its subtitle is “January 6 was practice. [The] GOP is much better positioned to subvert the next election”. Its author is Barton Gellman, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. It’s truly scary if you care about democracy. Here’s how it begins:

Technically, the next attempt to overthrow a national election may not qualify as a coup. It will rely on subversion more than violence, although each will have its place. If the plot succeeds, the ballots cast by American voters will not decide the presidency in 2024. Thousands of votes will be thrown away, or millions, to produce the required effect. The winner will be declared the loser. The loser will be certified president-elect.

The prospect of this democratic collapse is not remote. People with the motive to make it happen are manufacturing the means. Given the opportunity, they will act. They are acting already.

Who or what will safeguard our constitutional order is not apparent today. It is not even apparent who will try. Democrats, big and small D, are not behaving as if they believe the threat is real. Some of them, including President Joe Biden, have taken passing rhetorical notice, but their attention wanders. They are making a grievous mistake.

“The democratic emergency is already here,” Richard L. Hasen, a professor of law and political science at UC Irvine, told me in late October. Hasen prides himself on a judicious temperament. Only a year ago he was cautioning me against hyperbole. Now he speaks matter-of-factly about the death of our body politic. “We face a serious risk that American democracy as we know it will come to an end in 2024,” he said, “but urgent action is not happening.”

For more than a year now, with tacit and explicit support from their party’s national leaders, state Republican operatives have been building an apparatus of election theft. Elected officials in Arizona, Texas, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, and other states have studied D____ T____’s crusade to overturn the 2020 election. They have noted the points of failure and have taken concrete steps to avoid failure next time. Some of them have rewritten statutes to seize partisan control of decisions about which ballots to count and which to discard, which results to certify and which to reject. They are driving out or stripping power from election officials who refused to go along with the plot last November, aiming to replace them with exponents of the Big Lie. They are fine-tuning a legal argument that purports to allow state legislators to override the choice of the voters.

By way of foundation for all the rest, T____ and his party have convinced a dauntingly large number of Americans that the essential workings of democracy are corrupt, that made-up claims of fraud are true, that only cheating can thwart their victory at the polls, that tyranny has usurped their government, and that violence is a legitimate response.

Any Republican might benefit from these machinations, but let’s not pretend there’s any suspense. Unless biology intercedes, D____ T____ will seek and win the Republican nomination for president in 2024. The party is in his thrall. No opponent can break it and few will try. Neither will a setback outside politics—indictment, say—prevent T____ from running. If anything, it will redouble his will to power.

As we near the anniversary of January 6, investigators are still unearthing the roots of the insurrection that sacked the Capitol and sent members of Congress fleeing for their lives. What we know already, and could not have known then, is that the chaos wrought on that day was integral to a coherent plan. In retrospect, the insurrection takes on the aspect of rehearsal.

Even in defeat, T____ has gained strength for a second attempt to seize office, should he need to, after the polls close on November 5, 2024. It may appear otherwise—after all, he no longer commands the executive branch, which he tried and mostly failed to enlist in his first coup attempt. Yet the balance of power is shifting his way in arenas that matter more.

T____ is successfully shaping the narrative of the insurrection in the only political ecosystem that matters to him. The immediate shock of the event, which briefly led some senior Republicans to break with him, has given way to a near-unanimous embrace. Virtually no one a year ago, certainly not I, predicted that T____ could compel the whole party’s genuflection to the Big Lie and the recasting of insurgents as martyrs. Today the few GOP dissenters are being cast out. “2 down, 8 to go!” T____ gloated at the retirement announcement of Representative Adam Kinzinger, one of 10 House Republicans to vote for his second impeachment.

T____ has reconquered his party by setting its base on fire. Tens of millions of Americans perceive their world through black clouds of his smoke. His deepest source of strength is the bitter grievance of Republican voters that they lost the White House, and are losing their country, to alien forces with no legitimate claim to power. This is not some transient or loosely committed population. T____ has built the first American mass political movement in the past century that is ready to fight by any means necessary, including bloodshed, for its cause.

Gellman then writes in detail about a typical proponent of the Big Lie: a retired New York City Fire Department captain, 61 years old, who has no doubts about the 2020 election:

“There ain’t no fucking way we are letting go of 3 November 2020,” he said. “That is not going to fucking happen. That’s not happening. This motherfucker was stolen. The world knows this bumbling, senile, career corrupt fuck squatting in our White House did not get 81 million votes.”

This retired fire fighter is totally immersed in the Big Lie and related propaganda. Gellman then explains who showed up in Washington on January 6 and are among the Big Lie’s most ardent supporters:

The findings were counterintuitive. Counties won by T____ in the 2020 election were less likely than counties won by Biden to send an insurrectionist to the Capitol. The higher T____’s share of votes in a county, in fact, the lower the probability that insurgents lived there. Why would that be? Likewise, the more rural the county, the fewer the insurgents. The researchers tried a hypothesis: Insurgents might be more likely to come from counties where white household income was dropping. Not so. Household income made no difference at all.

Only one meaningful correlation emerged. Other things being equal, insurgents were much more likely to come from a county where the white share of the population was in decline. For every one-point drop in a county’s percentage of non-Hispanic whites from 2015 to 2019, the likelihood of an insurgent hailing from that county increased by 25 percent. This was a strong link, and it held up in every state. . . . 

What [researchers saw] in these results did not fit the government model of lone wolves and small groups of extremists. “This really is a new, politically violent mass movement,” he told me. “This is collective political violence.”

In other words, white people, average age 40, who think they, the real Americans, are being replaced by people with darker skins. It turns out that Gellman’s NYFD retiree fits the bill. He lives in The Bronx, an urban area with changing demographics, and is filled with resentments about minorities being given preferential treatment (even though he got a job with the NY City Fire Department and rose to the rank of captain).

Next, Gellman delves into the way T____, his lawyers and supporters tried to fix the 2020 election by getting courts and state legislatures to intervene and by interfering with the election’s certification by Congress on January 6. T____ and his movement didn’t get it done, but learned a lot in the process. They plan to do much better next time:

A year ago I asked the Princeton historian Kevin Kruse how he explained the integrity of the Republican officials who said no, under pressure, to the attempted coup in 2020 and early ’21. “I think it did depend on the personalities,” he told me. “I think you replace those officials, those judges, with ones who are more willing to follow the party line, and you get a different set of outcomes.”

Today that reads like a coup plotter’s to-do list. Since the 2020 election, Trump’s acolytes have set about methodically identifying patches of resistance and pulling them out by the roots. Brad Raffensperger in Georgia, who refused to “find” extra votes for Trump? Formally censured by his state party, primaried, and stripped of his power as chief election officer. Aaron Van Langevelde in Michigan, who certified Biden’s victory? Hounded off the Board of State Canvassers. Governor Doug Ducey in Arizona, who signed his state’s “certificate of ascertainment” for Biden? T____ has endorsed a former Fox 10 news anchor named Kari Lake to succeed him, predicting that she “will fight to restore Election Integrity (both past and future!).” Future, here, is the operative word. Lake says she would not have certified Biden’s victory in Arizona, and even promises to revoke it (somehow) if she wins. None of this is normal.

Arizona’s legislature, meanwhile, has passed a law forbidding Katie Hobbs, the Democratic secretary of state, to take part in election lawsuits, as she did at crucial junctures last year. The legislature is also debating an extraordinary bill asserting its own prerogative, “by majority vote at any time before the presidential inauguration,” to “revoke the secretary of state’s issuance or certification of a presidential elector’s certificate of election.” There was no such thing under law as a method to “decertify” electors when T____ demanded it in 2020, but state Republicans think they have invented one for 2024.

In at least 15 more states, Republicans have advanced new laws to shift authority over elections from governors and career officials in the executive branch to the legislature. Under the Orwellian banner of “election integrity,” even more have rewritten laws to make it harder for Democrats to vote. Death threats and harassment from T____ supporters have meanwhile driven nonpartisan voting administrators to contemplate retirement. . . . 

Amid all this ferment, T____’s legal team is fine-tuning a constitutional argument that is pitched to appeal to a five-justice majority if the 2024 election reaches the Supreme Court. This, too, exploits the GOP advantage in statehouse control. Republicans are promoting an “independent state legislature” doctrine, which holds that statehouses have “plenary,” or exclusive, control of the rules for choosing presidential electors. Taken to its logical conclusion, it could provide a legal basis for any state legislature to throw out an election result it dislikes and appoint its preferred electors instead. . . . 

Four justices—Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Clarence Thomas—have already signaled support for a doctrine that disallows any . . .  deviation from the [explicit] election rules passed by a state legislature [such as a judge extending voting hours]. It is an absolutist reading of legislative control over the “manner” of appointing electors under Article II of the U.S. Constitution. Justice Amy Coney Barrett, Trump’s last appointee, has never opined on the issue. . . . 

T____ is not relying on the clown-car legal team that lost nearly every court case last time. The independent-state-legislature doctrine has a Federalist Society imprimatur and attorneys from top-tier firms like Baker Hostetler. A dark-money voter-suppression group that calls itself the Honest Elections Project has already featured the argument in an amicus brief.

“One of the minimal requirements for a democracy is that popular elections will determine political leadership,” Nate Persily, a Stanford Law School expert on election law, told me. “If a legislature can effectively overrule the popular vote, it turns democracy on its head.” Persily and UC Irvine’s Hasen, among other election-law scholars, fear that the Supreme Court could take an absolutist stance that would do exactly that.

Gellman’s conclusion:

There is a clear and present danger that American democracy will not withstand the destructive forces that are now converging upon it. Our two-party system has only one party left that is willing to lose an election. The other is willing to win at the cost of breaking things that a democracy cannot live without.

Democracies have fallen before under stresses like these, when the people who might have defended them were transfixed by disbelief. If ours is to stand, its defenders have to rouse themselves. . . . 

Biden’s list of remedies [is] short and grossly incommensurate with the challenge. He expressed support for two bills—the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act—that were dead on arrival in the Senate because Democrats had no answer to the Republican filibuster. He said the attorney general would double the Department of Justice staff devoted to voting-rights enforcement. Civil-rights groups would “stay vigilant.” Vice President Kamala Harris would lead “an all-out effort to educate voters about the changing laws, register them to vote, and then get the vote out.”

And then he mentioned one last plan that proved he did not accept the nature of the threat: “We will be asking my Republican friends—in Congress, in states, in cities, in counties—to stand up, for God’s sake, and help prevent this concerted effort to undermine our elections and the sacred right to vote.”

So: enforcement of inadequate laws, wishful thinking about new laws, vigilance, voter education, and a friendly request that Republicans stand athwart their own electoral schemes.

Conspicuously missing from Biden’s speech was any mention even of filibuster reform, without which voting-rights legislation is doomed. Nor was there any mention of holding T____ and his minions accountable, legally, for plotting a coup. . . .  Absent consequences, they will certainly try again. An unpunished plot is practice for the next.

T____ came closer than anyone thought he could to toppling a free election a year ago. He is preparing in plain view to do it again, and his position is growing stronger. Republican acolytes have identified the weak points in our electoral apparatus and are methodically exploiting them. They have set loose and now are driven by the animus of tens of millions of aggrieved T____ supporters who are prone to conspiracy thinking, embrace violence, and reject democratic defeat. Those supporters, [the] “committed insurrectionists,” are armed and single-minded and will know what to do the next time T____ calls upon them to act.

Democracy will be on trial in 2024. A strong and clear-eyed president, faced with such a test, would devote his presidency to meeting it. Biden knows better than I do what it looks like when a president fully marshals his power and resources to face a challenge. It doesn’t look like this.

The midterms, marked by gerrymandering, will more than likely tighten the GOP’s grip on the legislatures in swing states. The Supreme Court may be ready to give those legislatures near-absolute control over the choice of presidential electors. And if Republicans take back the House and Senate, . . .  the GOP will be firmly in charge of counting the electoral votes.

Against Biden or another Democratic nominee, D____ T____ may be capable of winning a fair election in 2024. He does not intend to take that chance.

Unquote.

Maybe the president, the vice president, the attorney general, your senators, your member of Congress, your governor, your state legislators and people you know personally need to be more concerned about what’s happening and do something, anything, to stop it. There’s no better time than the present to act.

A Lingering Question from the 2020 Election

Why didn’t Democrats do better in House and Senate races last year, given that Biden got seven million more votes than the other guy.

First, the House of Representatives. There were roughly 156 million votes for either Biden or his Republican opponent. Biden’s share of that 156 million was 52.3%. Meanwhile, Democrats got 51.5% of all the votes cast in House races and, as a result, 51.5% of seats in the House. If they had gotten Biden’s percentage instead of 51.5%, they would have done better, but not much better. Instead of 224 seats out of 435, they might have gotten 227 or 228. That wouldn’t have been a big difference. The House vote pretty accurately tracked the presidential vote.

One reason the Democrats’ House vote fell slightly short might be that five million voters didn’t bother voting for a House candidate — maybe more of those lazy, uninformed or cynical voters were Democrats. Another reason, no doubt more likely, may be that Biden’s opponent was especially unpopular. More than a few people who usually vote Republican couldn’t bring themselves to vote for their party’s presidential candidate, even though they were willing to vote for his supporters in Congress.

The Senate was a different story. Because senators serve for six years, only one-third of Senate seats are contested in any given election. In 2020, thirty-four states had Senate elections. For no reason except that it was their turn, twenty-two of those thirty-four states had Republican senators. Only twelve had Democrats.

Since states generally elect their senators with large majorities — incumbent senators often win 60% or more of the vote — you’d expect Republican presidential candidates to do extraordinarily well in states with Republican senators. That’s exactly what happened in this election. The Republican presidential candidate got 57% of the vote in states that elected Republican senators, compared to 47% in the country as a whole.

Even so, Democrats ended up winning Senate seats in fourteen of the thirty-four states, adding two states to their total. Precisely those fourteen states of the thirty-four also went for Biden.

So the Democratic presidential candidate won 52.3% of the votes cast for either him or the Republican [not for a 3rd party candidate]; Democrats running for House seats did only slightly worse; and Democrats running for the Senate picked up a few seats, despite the fact that two-thirds of the states with Senate elections usually vote for Republicans.

If there’s an anomaly here, it’s that almost half of the electorate voted for a terrible president and disgusting human being, while also voting for congressional candidates who’d support him every step of the way.

One other statistic is worth noting. Biden got 49.6% of the vote in the thirty-four states with Senate elections, even though two-thirds of those states preferred his opponent. How did he get almost half the votes in thirty-four states if two-thirds of those states voted for the other guy? The reason is that Democratic states have larger populations.

Among the thirty-four states, the average Democratic state had 3.6 million voters. The average Republican state had only 1.8 million. Because each states has two senators without respect to population, the 40 million voters in the twenty-two Republican states are represented by forty-four senators. The 43 million voters in the twelve Democratic states only have twenty-four senators.

The men who wrote the Constitution made the US Senate a bastion of minority rule. The Senate filibuster adds insult to injury by requiring sixty votes out of one-hundred to get much done. There is no justification for giving a minority of senators so much power in a legislative body that already gives disproportionate power to America’s smallest states.

They Should Be Talking About the Coup Memo

Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel and Seth Meyers had something in common this week. They mentioned a memo given to our former president showing how he could try to stay in office after losing the election. The news divisions of ABC, CBS, NBC and of course Fox didn’t mention it at all. Reporters for The New York Times only got around to mentioning it yesterday in the final paragraphs of a story about the Arizona “audit” fiasco.

From Tim Murphy of Mother Jones:

There was big news this week on what is known ominously and euphemistically as “the democracy beat,” and like all such news, it was bad.

On Tuesday, CNN published a two-page memo written by a lawyer for then-President D____ T____’s re-election campaign during the run-up to the January 6 certification of the Electoral College results. In six concise bullet-points, the memo outlined a process by which Vice President Mike Pence could use his powers on January 6 to throw out the electors from seven states that President Joe Biden won in the 2020 election. The plan counted on Republicans in those states to submit competing sets of electors, based on the false and fabricated premise that T____ had somehow won those states.

The memo’s author, John Eastman, is a lawyer—at the time, he was even a tenured professor at Chapman University School of Law—but what he created is not a legal document. It is by its nature extra-legal: It is a blueprint for a coup.

Eastman anticipated the possibility that some people would be mad. “Howls, of course, from the Democrats,” he predicted in bullet-point four, immediately following the line, “Pence then gavels President T____ as re-elected.” Yeah, man, no kidding.

It is a little weird to read all these months later about something that was also plain as day at the time. Thursday marked the one-year anniversary of a Barton Gellman article in The Atlantic that laid out the strategy that T____, with Eastman and others’ help, would pursue. Mother Jones and others covered closely the efforts from the T____ campaign to throw out votes in courts and disenfranchise entire states. . . .  January 6 happened on live TV. But what was described on those couple of pages is what all the stunts and subterfuge were building up to—notes, as it were, on a criminal fucking conspiracy.

There have not been a lot of attempts to depose elected American presidents in my lifetime, though I’m only 34. Not knowing for sure what happens when you dissociate “peaceful transfer of power” from “a society entirely predicated on it,” I sort of think this is a pretty big deal. This is a break-the-glass moment, as some have said, only someone else already broke the glass and took the axe and is running around with it.

But it is not such a big deal, apparently, if you watch network TV news. On Wednesday, Media Matters’ Matt Gertz reported that the total number of minutes devoted to the story on either the morning or evening editions of ABC, NBC, or CBS News in the first two days after the memo was published was zero. “In fact,” Gertz wrote, “the only national network broadcasts to mention T____’s coup memo were the late-night variety shows hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert, and Seth Meyers.”

Americans get their news from lots of places, including from Late Night shows. And the networks are, broadly, still covering the aftermath of the January 6 insurrection, including the latest moves by the House Select Committee to subpoena former top T____ aides. But the network TV news shutout on the Eastman memo does speak to a reluctance to directly engage with this new political reality.

. . . There is something about the specific pitch of the threat that perhaps strains the capacity of some institutions to process. They’re not programmed to take on problems like this—it disturbs the comfortable equilibrium that defines a lot of political media. Republicans come on to speak to one side of things, and Democrats come on (slightly less often) to speak to the other side of things, and there are arguments, and sometimes people win and sometimes people lose. But there is always, basically, a sense that everyone is sort of acting within the constraints of the same known universe. There are scandals, too. (In fact, that universe thrives on scandal!) But those scandals never really veer into the realm of the existential. 

But what happened at the close of T____’s presidency, and seems likely to happen again if we continue mostly ignoring it, is an existential problem. There’s no equilibrium here. A majority of Republican members of Congress supported an effort to overturn the election. They’re almost all still in office. A majority of the country’s Republican attorneys general backed that same plan. . . . They’re all still in power as well. . . . The people who thought that the biggest problem with January 6 was that the game wasn’t fixed sooner are strengthening their grip on the GOP and on institutions of state and local government, and everyone else with a future in the party is getting out of their way.

The day of the insurrection at the Capitol, I remember thinking—naively but in my defense very angrily—that there might even be expulsions from Congress as a result, that those complicit would have to pay. I might feel better now if anyone had. But while there were howls, of course, from Democrats, such chatter quickly died down on Capitol Hill. The only people who have suffered any recriminations are the Republicans in Congress who, however belatedly, stood up to all this. Last week, Indiana Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, one of just 10 House Republicans to support impeaching the president for inciting the insurrection, announced his retirement, citing the “toxic dynamics” within his party. Gonzalez’s personal security budget had gone up since the vote, and he was being challenged by a former T____ aide, Max Miller. The ex-president had already come to the district to campaign against him.

This is all an enormous crisis of legitimacy for a large swath of government at many different levels, which means it’s an enormous challenge for political media and everyone else. I don’t really know how we get out of it. But I guess I’d start with acknowledging the fact that the axe is missing.