So how are you taking the anniversary of January 6? Are you comfortable that it is behind us and that we are now moving forward? Are you uneasy that lingering hate and unrest are still around and have not been addressed? Or are you scared out of your mind that January 6, 2021 was merely a warning shot across the bow and that what happens next could be even worse?
In my case, what I fear most are not more violent assaults by outraged mobs or domestic terrorists—though these could happen—but rather a slow eroding of the guardrails that have kept our democracy safe. Those guardrails appear to be weakening. When over half of the Republicans believe that the election was stolen, when Tump’s support remains solid, when few Democrat and Republican senators and congressmen are on speaking terms, and when Trump-appointed judges and justices are capable of throwing monkey wrenches, there is less comfort that the center will hold. Even more frightening is that Republicans have figured out the weak underbelly of our system, and are on it big time.
Here is how they plan to take back control of the country:
Biden beat Trump by over seven million votes in the 2020 election—a trouncing. But if just a few votes in key states had changed Trump’s way, he would have won. It was much closer and much scarier than you might have thought. According to a great op ed piece in the New York Times today (by Jedediah Britton-Purdy, Columbia Law School professor), if just 43,000 votes had switched from Biden to Trump in three critical battleground states, Trump would have had the Electoral College votes he needed to win.
Republicans have figured this out and have a new strategy–forget the popular vote. Go for the battleground states and change the rules so Republicans will lock in the states that make a difference regardless of what the popular vote is. They are doing this by getting Republican-leaning, battleground states to change state laws which determine how votes are counted, placing the final responsibility for declaring a winner on people who have a dog in the fight. In other words, if these actions are successful in enough battleground states and are allowed to stand, game over. While a Democrat candidate might have more votes, the Republican controlled legislature could do anything it wanted and surely could find enough “election fraud” to declare the Republican candidate the winner over an opponent with more votes.
But this is only part of their strategy. They are also working hard at replacing all the election officials in these states who in 2020 refused to declare the election process illegal or “stolen” and replacing them with hard core, Trump loyalists. And, of course, they are working hard to make the voting process more difficult. Gerrymandering voting districts in many states is continuing. If Republicans are successful in these efforts, which under current law are all legal, the scales will be tilted so much in favor of a Republican presidential candidate, that it would be extremely difficult for any Democrat to win the presidency.
I think of the line from one of T.S. Elliot’s poems. “The world won’t end with a bang but a whimper.”
The Times op ed piece concludes that our current system of electing presidents is fundamentally flawed and needs to be reformed so that the popular vote is what counts, not the way it does now in the Electoral College with an all-or-nothing, win-or-lose vote count on a state-by-state basis. To dump the Electoral College, however, would likely require an amendment to the Constitution, and that is a heavy lift.
So, yes, I am concerned, and you should be too. It appears that the system for governance that has been in place for close to 250 years and has served us well may not be able to get us through the divisiveness that we are experiencing now. The opinion of many experts and historians is that our democracy is facing the biggest crisis since the Civil War. You could argue that such talk may be an exaggeration. After all, we have been through two world wars, the Great Depression, the era of Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Revolution. We are a country with much talent, good will, and resiliency. We have been the envy of so many on this planet, some who have risked their lives to get here and become citizens. We are the oldest democracy in the world.
Yes, we are a great country. But somehow the situation we are in now seems different. We are divided by culture, race, and class as perhaps never before and need to figure out a pathway through this. And there is an authoritarian waiting in the wings, revving up his base, chomping at the bit, believing that his vindication will come. This time he will be playing marbles for keeps.