Saturday, May 8, 2021

Will the Republicans Steal our Democracy?

Steal our democracy? That may seem over the top to some. But they certainly look like they are trying.

When Trump refused to concede the election alleging fraud, we figured it would only be a matter of time until he was done trying to find this alleged fraud. Maybe he won't concede, but once the Electoral College certified Biden's victory in December, this would finally go away. Indeed, most mainstream Republicans finally recognized Joe Biden as the president-elect. The actual meeting of the Electoral College in December was certification of Biden's win. That settled it - except for the electoral votes being announced in Congress on January 6 in what is (or at least should be) little more than a ceremony. But we all witnessed the rioters storming the Capitol, encouraged by Trump to try that one more time to retake the presidency believing the election was stolen. They were not successful but tragically, lives were lost in the process. The day is considered so tragic that this event is now referred to as 1-6, just like we do with 9-11.

Many Republicans in Congress said they were done with Trump even though most of them did not vote to convict in the impeachment trial. It was assumed that Trump would go away quietly, especially with his Twitter account being taken away from him. But after awhile, it became apparent that many Republicans at the state and local levels throughout the country were still fiercely loyal to Trump with as many as 70 percent of them believing that the election was indeed stolen from him and that Biden is not the legitimate president. This caused many Republicans in Congress to reevaluate their stance toward Trump. If the only way to win a Republican nomination in future elections was to endorse Trump, they will then become Trump supporters often going as far as endorsing the fraud that Trump still alleges (but without any supporting evidence).

To be a member of good standing in today's Republican Party, one has to pledge loyalty to Trump. If he wants to steal the election along with effectively stealing our democracy, this is more important to them than their oath to faithfully protect the Constitution. This is sadly from one of our two major parties.

To address what they claim as voter fraud, there have been voter suppression laws passed along with many in the works in states with Republican legislatures. The view of Democrats is that these laws are there to make it more difficult for black voters to come out and vote. Republicans deny this. But it is obvious that with their added restrictions it will be more difficult to vote. They are certainly not going to make voting more difficult for themselves. The only possible reason for these laws is to try and keep groups more likely to vote Democratic away from the polls. In other words, this is about gaining a tactical advantage for Republicans. The stuff about voter fraud is just a pretense that has been debunked many times. Every time an investigation of fraud is initiated (usually by Republicans), the amount of fraud found is close to non-existent. House Democrats have passed a comprehensive bill known as the For the People Act to address these abuses along with gerrymandering, a term for partisan redistricting. Needless to say, Senate Republicans are bitterly opposed to this bill.

The phony election audit conducted by Trump partisans in Arizona is just icing on the cake. In essence, the Republicans want to select their voters as much as possible but even worse, want to be able to overturn an election result they don't like. If this isn't an attempt to steal our democracy, I don't know what is!

But will they succeed? It's scary as hell but ultimately, I don't think they will.

The important thing to remember is that Republicans are still a minority of the American voters. Trump may be loved by many Republicans but he won a minority of the popular vote in both elections he ran in. All of this loyalty to Trump may indeed win primary elections. And in solidly Republican states, this will win general elections (just like before). However, in the swing states with all of the independent and especially suburban voters that Trump lost in the second election, this nonsense is not going to fly! What do you claim in your reelection campaign? That you did little more than help to spread crackpot theories that Biden is not the legitimate president? I think not!

The Democrats hold very slender margins in both the Senate and the House. And conventional wisdom says that the president's party will lose seats in the midterm elections. Although Republicans in Congress have voted in lockstep against Biden's bills, the polls show that Biden's recently passed Covid-19 relief bill along with his proposed infrastructure bill are surprisingly popular with many Republicans back home.

But for President Biden to keep passing bills, the Senate will likely have to end the filibuster. Joe Manchin (D-WV) has been solidly against this, wanting to negotiate with the Republicans to secure enough votes for passage each time. But he also said that the Republicans will have to be more than just the party of no. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised that Biden's proposed infrastructure bill will get zero Republican votes while promising to put 100% of his effort into opposing President Biden's agenda. Surely, Manchin will change his stance if the Republicans refuse to compromise on any bill. Yes, Manchin is a very conservative Senator from a state that Trump won by about 40%. But I have to believe that he wants his fellow Democratic president to succeed. Surely enough non-stop McConnell obstruction will eventually make Manchin change his mind about the filibuster despite promising to never do so. 

So when the midterms come along, who will have the better sales pitch to the voters? The Democrats who have provided help to a wide section of the population? - or the party of no? Having said this, a number of Republicans have shamelessly claimed credit to their constituents for benefits they opposed when the bills were voted on.  The Democrats will have to be alert and call out these hypocrites when they run for reelection.

But there is also a reason to be pessimistic. When President Obama took office in 2009, he pushed through a stimulus bill to rescue an economy in free fall along with passing Obamacare which provided health insurance for tens of millions more Americans. The voters 'rewarded' him with a crushing Republican victory in 2010.

Perhaps it's little more than wishful thinking that the Republicans won't someday steal our democracy. After all, another Trump can become president without all of the incompetence the former president displayed. Trump himself still talks about running again in 2024. But as long as the Republicans remain as the minority party, our democracy is so precious that I have faith President Biden and enough Americans will not let this happen!

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