Home > Uncategorized > The Democrats’ Big Mistake – posted 6/20/2021

The Democrats’ Big Mistake – posted 6/20/2021

For many, Joe Biden’s election win in 2020 represented an enormous relief. Even losing, the Trump cult scared the hell out of people committed to democracy.

Since he became President, Biden has tried his best to restore a sense of normalcy and national unity. In his low-key, grandfatherly way he has worked hard to move on from the madcap absurdities of the Trump era where the world waited on edge daily for the next egomaniacal toxic tweet storm.

Historically, Biden has been a centrist and a bi-partisan institutionalist. He is the mildest of progressives although he has an ambitious agenda. It would appear he thinks public policy achievements will roll back the anti-democratic threat Trump represents.

While I understand Biden’s desire to present Trump as a bizarre aberration and a kind of presidential freak show, I think he and his administration are making a big mistake in underestimating the danger Trump and his movement continue to represent. They have not gone away but are waiting in the wings for 2022 and 2024. Ignoring Trump’s crimes only increases the likelihood of their repetition in the future.

I am sure Democrats worry that continuing to focus on Trump crimes will interfere with the accomplishment of more forward-looking goals. Unfortunately forgetting is not a great strategy for combatting the next rounds of authoritarian comeback which are certain to happen.

The former president refuses to acknowledge the legitimacy of the election he lost. Such a reaction is common from dictators and autocrats who never want to give up power and try to maintain it at all costs. According to the New York Times, Trump is saying he will be reinstated as President in August even though there is no constitutional provision for reinstatement. The election audits Trump has promoted like in Arizona trigger no mechanism for him to remove Biden.

We continue to learn more about Trump and his inner circle’s ultra-aggressive behavior. In late December 2020, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows pushed the Department of Justice to overturn Trump’s election loss. Meadows wanted the then acting-Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen to look into election fraud claims in Georgia and New Mexico.

Meadows also wanted Rosen to look into a bonkers conspiracy theory known as Italygate which claims people in Italy had used military technology and satellites to remotely switch votes for Trump to Biden on U.S. voting machines. Meadows’ actions violated a long-standing guideline which forbid White House personnel from contacting the Department of Justice about ongoing investigations.

This came after Trump’s efforts to get Rosen to probe Dominion Voting Systems which Trump falsely claimed had perpetrated widespread voter fraud as well as his effort to directly ask the Supreme Court to invalidate Biden’s win. Trump also had famously asked Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger to “find” 11,780 votes.

Raffensberger and his family received threats of violence for months after the November election. Trump’s claim that the election was rigged prompted a campaign to terrorize election officials nation-wide. Both Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson have received death threats. Benson contended with armed protesters outside her home in December.

Many lower level and middle level election workers also have received death threats, harassing phone calls and emails. Among those targeted have been black election workers who have been subjected to vicious racist intimidation by threatening pro-Trump callers, texters and emailers.

After failing at efforts to overturn the election, Trump resorted to his coup attempt on January 6. Spreading false claims that the election was stolen, Trump in December told his supporters to come to a rally that would be “wild”. Trump world, including an assortment of far right activists, urged people to get to the Capitol by 1pm on January 6. Many pro-Trump websites amped up the event touting the start of a civil war.

When the Senate failed to impeach Trump for the second time, Sen. Mitch McConnell excoriated Trump for his actions on January 6 saying:

“There’s no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day.”

However, McConnell and the Republican Party would ultimately not even accept a bi-partisan January 6 Commission. They want no further investigation. We narrowly avoided a successful coup but so far there has been no reckoning with Trump’s many excesses. Instead of rejecting Trump’s Big Lie of a stolen election, two-thirds to three-quarters of Republicans continue to say Biden was illegitimately elected.

Trump and his allies have transformed the Republican Party into an entity that no longer believes in democratic majority governance. They are opposed to the idea that Democrats can win elections fairly. Knowing they will not win popular votes, their strategy has devolved into making it as hard as possible to vote.

Trump’s Big Lie has propelled the Republicans’ massive voter suppression effort. Without federal intervention in support of voting rights, the Republican control of many state legislatures and Governor offices makes it likely their voter suppression will be effective in many states.

More than twice as many Republicans as Democrats – nearly two in five Republicans – said in a January poll that violence could be justified against their opponents.

Sadly, the Democrats’ efforts to respond to this subversion of democracy have been weak. It is almost like they are clueless about what they are up against. Trump makes Richard Nixon look like a choir boy.

Fifty years from now, historians will probably still be uncovering Trump crimes including self-enrichment and emoluments violation, concentration camps and human rights violations against immigrants, unnecessary COVID-19 deaths and the failure of public health, promotion of environmental degradation, violation of election laws and racist voter suppression, sexual harassment and fraud of all varieties. Chauncey DeVega has written:

“It is more likely than not that the true extent of the Trump regime’s crimes are so great and horrible that the Biden Administration and senior members of the Democratic Party have either actively decided or come to a tacit understanding that it is in the best interests of the country to somehow conceal them – or at the very least to let these heinous acts leak out slowly, as to then be lost down the memory well.”

Democracy requires accountability. I support the idea of President Biden and Congress appointing an independent special prosecutor to investigate White House crimes committed during the Trump era. At least during Watergate, Democrats effectively tried to get to the bottom of criminal activity. Organized forgetting does not bode well.

I was disgusted when I heard that Biden’s Department of Justice was continuing to defend Trump in E.Jean Carroll’s defamation lawsuit against Trump. Carroll had accused Trump of raping her in the dressing room of a Manhattan department store more than two decades ago.Trump denied the allegations. The Department of Justice has argued Trump was acting within the scope of his official duties as president when he denied Carroll’s allegations. The DOJ position is morally and legally wrong and an embarrassment.

Fascist and authoritarian movements have played liberals before. Political adversaries of European fascists in the 1920’s and 1930’s thought they could rein in and control the fascists. They mistakenly underestimated the capability of the fascists to control them, with disastrous consequences.

Americans have a generally poor record of responding to crimes by rich and powerful people. We have been far more zealous about attacking blue collar crime. A real reckoning demands a full public accounting of Trump crimes. Without that, the Democrats are placing themselves and everyone else at serious future risk.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Steven Ushioda
    July 2, 2021 at 1:27 am

    Dear Jonathan, I’m going to be heading up a newspaper down here in the Philadelphia suburbs. Would it be okay to reach out to you for some advice over the coming weeks? Warm regards, Steven S. Ushioda

    • July 2, 2021 at 1:28 am

      Sure Steven, be happy to talk. Jon

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