Saturday’s (Not much of a) Soother – January 16, 2021

The Daily Escape:

Sunrise, Foster Bridge, Cabot, VT – photo by Michael Blanchette photography

Predictions for the year ahead are probably pointless, but 2021 could easily include more domestic terror. Biden’s inauguration will look like an armed takeover of the US Capitol, because the new president must be protected from a potential return of the mob that attacked the Capitol on Jan.6.

That group included some very serious, most likely, coordinated people who had temporary restraints and a plan. Reuters reports that US prosecutors said in a court filing that rioters intended:

 “…to capture and assassinate elected officials.”

The Trump Coupists believed that the election had been stolen, and that democracy in the US had been overthrown. It was, therefore, their duty to right the wrong that had been done, including taking captive those most responsible like Nancy Pelosi and Mike Pence. The WaPo says the mob got within 100 feet of Pence’s hiding spot:

“If the pro-Trump mob had arrived seconds earlier, the attackers would have been in eyesight of the vice president as he was rushed across a reception hall into the office.”

This is a Republican problem. Here’s polling data from Quinnipiac, who surveyed 1,239 registered voters nationwide, from January 7-11:

  • 73% of Republicans say Trump is protecting, not undermining, democracy.
  • 70% of Republicans say Republicans who voted to block electors were protecting, not undermining, democracy.
  • 73% of Republicans say there was widespread voter fraud in 2020.

So what will these 50+ million Republicans out of the 74 million Trump voters who think they are disenfranchised, do? Their numbers are more than sufficient to sustain a domestic insurgency. They are geographically diverse, many are armed to the teeth. They believe they are part of a Trump movement, and it is their patriotic duty to fight in order to restore US democracy. From David Brooks:

“You can’t argue with people who have their own separate made-up set of facts…It’s a pure power struggle. The weapons in this struggle are intimidation, verbal assault, death threats and violence, real and rhetorical. The fantasyland mobbists have an advantage because they relish using these weapons, while their fellow Christians just want to lead their lives….The problem is, how do you go about reattaching people to reality?”

A distinct possibility for 2021 is a low grade insurrection, led by heavily armed true believers of the Trump movement. The challenge for America is whether these true believers can be deprogrammed and return to reality.

A return to reality requires all of us, but specifically Republicans at the local, state and federal levels to reject the Big Lie fomented by Trump. Republicans need to look in the mirror. The FT’s Janan Ganesh says: (paywalled, emphasis by Wrongo):

 “Whether we date it to the congressional midterm election of 1994, or Barry Goldwater’s White House bid in 1964, or the McCarthyite 1950s, the party has not policed its right flank for a long time. The Republican portrayal of government as inherently malign is hardly new….The impugning of opponents’ legitimacy did not commence with president-elect Joe Biden’s this winter.”

Few of us know insurrectionists. We see them on TV as armed, angry brainwashed people eager for a second Civil War. We’re all unsure if deprogramming will work, because it rarely works for cult members.

We need brave Republicans who will speak out against the tyrant, and the Big Lie, regardless of the threats.

If the Big Lie persists, America could then be faced with mutually exclusive, and terrible choices: One is to become a police state. We could see more cameras, security checkpoints near state capitols, combined with more social media suppression and expanded no-fly lists. But if there are millions of armed true believers, they won’t be easily suppressed. We could face a long term insurrection, one that will not be put down, short of imprisoning many more millions of Americans.

Whether the trained and armed groups of (mostly) white men scattered all over the country, many of whom are currently in police forces or on military active duty, will coalesce sufficiently to conduct periodic quasi-terrorist actions is difficult to say. But even in the very red states where the Trump movement is powerful, there are urban centers. Those cities are much less red. And few in the Trump movement will want their family and friends getting killed for the cause.

Second, we can try peacefully to encourage the insurrectionists into the mainstream by making our politicians cut out the BS. And by creating a better society. A decent, livable America is currently out of reach for many. In that sense, we all could profit by working to make America great again.

Let’s climb down from all of the recent hysteria, and enjoy a brief moment of Saturday Soothing. Here is the Cadenza from “Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto”, with Canadian Chris Coletti on solo trumpet, conducted by Paul Haas with the Symphony of Northwest Arkansas, in October 2017. His playing is remarkable:

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How Will The Senate Operate When It’s 50/50?

The Daily Escape:

Sunrise, Cranberry Peak, ME – 2021 photo by njhcomposer

The secret to happiness is freedom… And the secret to freedom is courage.” – Thucydides

Why can’t Republicans just say “Biden won”?

Wednesday night’s Trump video didn’t include the only sentence that might matter to the health of our democracy. He should have said: Joe Biden won the presidential election legitimately, and I congratulate him; he will be our president now.

Even Congressional Republicans are having a tough time saying the words.

What has happened to the GOP? Are they so afraid of their voters? The 10 GOP votes to impeach Trump for a second time was the largest bipartisan impeachment vote in history. In 1999, only five House Democrats voted to impeach Clinton, and three of them later became Republicans. No Democrat in the Senate voted to convict Clinton.

Back in the 1860s, all of Andrew Johnson’s fellow Democrats stood by him during his impeachment and kept him from conviction.

So impeachment #2 was a small but significant break with the near-total support Trump enjoyed exactly one year ago at his first impeachment. Back then, only Mitt Romney (R-UT) voted to convict him. What House impeachment manager Adam Schiff (D-CA) did was prophetic. He asked Republicans to look to the future:

“…you know you can’t trust this President to do what’s right for this country. You can trust he will do what’s right for Donald Trump. He’ll do it now. He’s done it before. He’ll do it for the next several months. He’ll do it in the election if he’s allowed to.”

Why so few GOP House votes for impeachment? Many Republicans lacked moral courage, while a few actually said they feared for their lives if they voted to impeach. OTOH, no one should harbor the illusion that only Republicans receive death threats.

So think about what Thucydides says above: courage is the secret to preserving freedom.

If America is ever to be free of Trump, if America is ever going to free itself from fearing Trump’s armed and dangerous followers, our lawmakers need to be courageous.

All eyes now turn to the Senate, where Republicans will have the majority until inauguration day. After Jan. 20, Kamala Harris will become president of the Senate, while Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will be Majority Leader with the responsibility of guiding the Democratic agenda through what will be a 50/50 Party division of Senators.

This is a rare event; it’s only the fourth time in history that the Senate has been evenly divided.

That means Schumer and outgoing Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will first have to agree on a set of rules, known as an organizing resolution, which will govern how the Senate will operate. The organizing resolution determines everything from committee assignments and staff budgets, to who gets the best office space.

The last time we had a 50/50 Senate was in 2001, and a lot has changed in the 20 years since then. That 2001 power sharing agreement was between Republican Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi and Democrat Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota. Their power-sharing agreement lasted for about five months, until Sen. Jim Jeffords, (then R-VT) became an independent, and caucused with the Democrats. At that point, the Democrats had a clear majority.

The Lott/Daschle agreement will be the starting point in the negotiations between Schumer and McConnell. The 2001 agreement provided for equal numbers of members on Senate committees, with a process for discharging bills and nominations that were deadlocked. From Trent Lott:

“If there was a tie vote in committee, either one of us could take it to the floor,”

At the time, that gave the Republicans a narrow advantage on setting the agenda.

This time, the same rule could be advantageous for Democrats. The 2001 agreement also provided for equal levels of staffing as well as office space, which may be less complicated in 2021, given the extent of remote work by Senate staff during the Covid pandemic.

The negotiation on an organizing resolution is complicated by the looming Senate impeachment trial.

Biden is rightly concerned about his agenda being stalled or slowed by the trial. He has said that he would like to see a “bifurcated” process on the Senate floor:

“Can we go half-day on dealing with impeachment, and half-day getting my people nominated and confirmed in the Senate…?”

Right now, Senate committees are still controlled by the GOP until the new organizing resolutions are adopted. Those Republican committee chairs are taking their time regarding scheduling hearings for Biden’s Cabinet picks.

We’ll see how far courage takes us in the new 117th Congress.

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Demographic Analysis of Pro-Trump Congressional Districts

The Daily Escape:

Three Sisters, Goblin Valley State Park, UT – photo by jonnyboy_wanderlust

As Wrongo writes this, the House has voted for a second Trump Impeachment. The process began with votes on rules and procedures. Most Republicans argued that impeachment would be divisive. That’s rich, given that for four years they have supported and encouraged the divisive lies and actions of Donald Trump.

But now, it’s suddenly critical that we “heal.” Of course it is.

A majority of House Republicans objected to the certification of Electoral College votes from the swing states of Arizona and Pennsylvania. Even more Republicans voted against the House motion to ask Mike Pence to begin the process required by the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office.

Now it’s on to a second impeachment. A grand total of ten House Republicans (out of 211) voted along with all House Democrats to impeach Trump. According to the WaPo, McConnell has decided not to convene the Senate for an emergency trial, meaning the trial will fall to the newly Democrat-controlled Senate after January 20.

Back to the House Republicans: Jacob Whiton wrote an interesting demographic and economic analysis of the constituencies represented by the 139 House Republicans who objected to the certification of at least one state’s Electoral College results. His aim is to clarify the demographics of where right-wing authoritarianism has taken root. Overall he found that:

“The Republican Party’s most Pro-Trump House members have been elected by…white homeowners in the fast-growing exurban fringe. They feel the social status traditionally associated with their identity as white Christians is being degraded and that left wing political movements pose a threat to their livelihoods and political power. In reaction, they have lashed themselves to a movement within the Republican Party led by President Trump that seeks to defend the privileges of property-owning white Americans in our political system, economy, and public life.”

The districts represented by the most committed Pro-Trump Republicans are fast-growing, rapidly diversifying suburbs. Places where inequalities between white homeowners and their non-white neighbors have been shrinking, and where low voter turnout has helped deliver reliable Republican victories.

Residents of objectors’ districts are more than twice as likely as residents of other Republican districts to live in “sparse suburban areas.” These districts are among the fastest-growing districts in the country, with population growth outpacing that in districts represented by Democrats or other Republicans over the last 20 years.

Almost all of this growth has been among non-white groups, specifically Latinos and Asian Americans, resulting in a dramatic shift in the demographic composition of these districts:

In the objectors’ districts, residents under the age of 18 are 3.6 times more likely to be Hispanic and 1.6 times more likely to be Black or Asian American than those over the age of 65. This means that in these districts, debates about Social Security and Medicare, public education and housing are highly polarized.

District constituents of the Republican objectors tend to have the lowest levels of formal educational attainment. In their districts, on average, 68% of white homeowners do not have a four-year degree and their median home value is the lowest:

Whites in Republican objectors’ districts are considerably more likely to own their own home and earn higher incomes than other racial groups, except for Asian Americans. But White homeowners’ perception of loss of status relative to upwardly mobile Hispanic and Asian American households is a key social context which is driving Trumpism’s nativist politics.

White evangelical Christians have been Trump’s most unwavering base of support. In more than half of Republican objectors’ districts, evangelicals account for at least a fifth of constituents, making them far more likely to represent evangelicals in Congress than other Republicans or Democrats.

White evangelical Protestants stand far apart in their politics. The Public Religion Research Institute’s 2020 American Values survey found that they are the only group where a majority expresses a preference for living in a country “made up of people who follow the Christian faith”.

They are the only group for whom abortion and terrorism rank in their top three most important issues. They are also the least likely to agree that President Trump has encouraged white supremacist groups, although a majority of Americans overall do.

Whiton found that workers in the Republican objectors’ districts are more likely to be employed in sectors of the economy Trump has routinely identified as most threatened by the political left: mining and oil and natural gas extraction, heavy manufacturing, and law enforcement.

Whiton concludes with a note of optimism: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“The fact that Republican objectors command the least popular support among their own constituents of any congressional elected officials in the country is both a testament to their effectiveness in entrenching their own power and also the foundation on which we must ground our hopes for political change to end minority rule.”

Perhaps we should focus our voter turnout activities in these Republican objectors’ districts.

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Corporations, Not Congress, Do The Right Thing

The Daily Escape:

Winter, Stowe VT – photo by John H. Knox

On January 6 2021 America’s professional managerial class felt fear for the first time since WWII. These corporate titans saw our democracy stumble. And they didn’t like it, since they have a vested interest in the US continuing to be a stable democracy. They rely on the rule of law to allow them to operate in a predictable and rational environment. That environment was jeopardized last week.

For the moment, the USA is effectively without a leader. We’ve heard no public briefings from the White House, FBI, Department of Homeland Security, or the Justice Department about what happened on January 6, or what has happened since. We’ve heard only Trump say he isn’t responsible for the attack on the Capitol.

The acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security resigned. The Defense Department is being run by a Trump lackey. Outgoing Secretary of State Pompeo is trying to blow up the entire Biden administration by recognizing the independence of Taiwan.

America is crying out for leadership, and a broad coalition of CEOs stepped up to silence Trump. These CEOs acted faster and more effectively as a check on the president’s power than Congress could, or would. A new overt corporatist political force is emerging, and Facebook (excuse the pun) is its face. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said:

“You cannot call for violence…the risk to our democracy was too big. We felt that we had to take the unprecedented step of an indefinite ban, and I’m glad that we did.”

Twitter followed suit with a permanent Trump ban.

For years, many people, including Trump, have used these platforms to undermine democracy. Since before the November election, they have used these platforms to attempt to nullify the results of the November election, and install Donald Trump as an illegitimate president. From Jonathan Last:

“Had this attempt been successful, it would have been the end of American democracy and, consequently, the failure of the rule of law. This would have had dire consequences for Twitter, Facebook, and every company in America because it would have meant that they were no longer subject to the predictable process of the rule of law, but rather…the pleasure of a strongman.”

Despite the whining on the Right, there is no right of free speech on private platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Google. Those companies built, and now operate their platforms, and they are available to most for free. That doesn’t imply that individuals or corporations must be free to say anything they want while using them.

The people who run Twitter and Facebook are just as qualified to make judgments about what’s useful for a healthy society as any Right Wing politician. Anyone who says that these platform companies must simply let anyone join their platforms, and then allow them to do whatever they want, are simply wrong.

We’ve learned last week that when a sitting president threatens the political stability of the country by inciting an insurrectionist mob that storms the Capitol, corporate America will do everything in its power to restrain him.

This week, the tech giants including Facebook, Google, Amazon and Twitter worked in concert to decapitate Trump and the extreme Right.

Other corporations pulled political funding from all legislators who supported overturning the result of November’s free and fair election. Several major companies on Monday said they planned to cut off political donations to the 147 members of Congress who last week voted against certifying the results of the presidential election. Other major corporations said they are suspending all contributions from their political action committees. This is a sign of corporate America’s growing unease with the election falsehoods promoted by Trump, along with the violent attacks he encouraged.

All of this happened before the House could even schedule a vote on impeachment.

It also highlights the inaction by the Senate. For the first time in the last ten presidential transitions, the GOP-led Senate is not confirming Biden cabinet members prior to the inauguration.

There will be no head of the CIA, no Homeland Security secretary, Attorney General, Secretary of State, or Secretary of Health and Human Services when Biden takes office. This, despite being hip deep in a domestic terror attack during a pandemic that’s killed nearly 400,000 Americans.

And everyone should have a problem with the fact that the New England Patriots’ head coach Bill Belichick, by refusing Trump’s offer of a Medal of Freedom, is showing more moral leadership than any Republican Representative or Senator.

Between the demonstrations we saw last summer, through the Georgia Senate runoff election, political activism is on the rise across America. That now includes major corporations.

There will be no going back.

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Monday Wake Up Call – Our Dangerous Future Edition, January 11, 2021

The Daily Escape:

Outside the Capitol, a crowd of thousands cheered the rioters entering the building, January 6, 2021, 2:10 pm. Photo by Ashley Gilbertson/VII, for The New York Times.

Look closely at the size of the crowd in the photo above, because our future may look a lot like that. The GOP has become two Parties, says Timothy Snyder in an excellent article in the NYT. He says that the Republican Party is now two coalitions of politicians and their supporters. One group wants to game the system, while the other wants to break the system.

What this portends for the immediate future, is chilling. The Breakers have moved on from the US Capitol to statehouses. Kentucky.com reported that dozens of heavily armed people gathered on Saturday outside the Kentucky Capitol building, demonstrating against socialism, communism, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), along with Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear:

“Several members of the Kentucky State Police looked on as members of the group, composed of people from self-described “militias,” made speeches interspersed with live performances of country songs. Some in the crowd held flags or wore hats supporting President Donald Trump.”

By Wrongo’s count, that makes 12 state capitols that have seen militia-style demonstrations since the attempted coup at the US Capitol. We’ve entered a period when mobs of angry individuals now feel sufficiently emboldened to just go and break any law they disagree with.

We know that the Republican Party is culpable: By defending Trump’s big lie about a stolen election even after the Jan. 6 attempted coup, they’ve set a precedent: A Republican presidential candidate who loses an election should be appointed to the job anyway. For at least the Breaker branch of the Republican Party, they will operate in the future with two plans in mind: Plan A, to win the election. And Plan B, to lose, but then to win through force.

As with Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley’s objections to the Electoral Votes of certain states, a finding of election fraud isn’t necessary. Breaker Republicans will only need to hear allegations that there was fraud. More from Snyder: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“Post-truth is pre-fascism, and Trump has been our post-truth president. When we give up on truth, we concede power to those with the wealth and charisma to create spectacle in its place. Without agreement about some basic facts, citizens cannot form the civil society that would allow them to defend themselves. If we lose the institutions that produce facts that are pertinent to us, then we tend to wallow in attractive abstractions and fictions. Truth defends itself particularly poorly when there is not very much of it around…”

Snyder says that for the Republican Breaker faction to succeed, they need an angry minority, organized for nationwide violence, ready to add intimidation to an election. It is surprising just how close they are to having all of that in 2021. One more from Snyder:

“Informed observers inside and outside government agree that right-wing white supremacism is the greatest terrorist threat to the United States. Gun sales in 2020 hit an astonishing high. History shows that political violence follows when prominent leaders of major political parties openly embrace paranoia.”

How large is the cohort of Breakers? Wrongo hasn’t seen any estimates. But, a YouGov Direct poll of 1,397 registered voters who knew about Wednesday’s attempted coup found that 62% of voters perceived the mob action as a threat to democracy:

  • Democrats (93%) overwhelmingly see it this way.
  • Most Independents (55%) also agree.
  • 68% of Republicans didn’t think that mob violence to overturn an election was a threat to democracy.

One poll isn’t dispositive, but since Trump got 70 million votes, and 68% of them seemingly condone overturning an election, we’re dealing with nearly 50 million people. Not all of them will take up arms against their government. But if organized, it would be a very large and well-dispersed militia. One that communicates instantly via social media.

There is much to say about the tension between our First Amendment rights, and the use potential coup plotters and their enablers make of social media. Trump was permanently banned from Twitter, while the hard right social platform Parler has lost access to the Apple store and to Amazon’s server platform.

Freedom of speech is essential to a democracy, but using Twitter, Facebook and the far-right platforms to lie, and to organize armed resistance to our government, brings with it the danger that our democracy could fall to angry, armed people who believe the big lie.

Time to wake up America! We’ve become a pre-coup nation. All of the necessary conditions are in place: vast inequality, growing poverty, a stabbed-in-the-back narrative that a large segment of Republican voters believe, along with the storyline that a right-wing President was the victim of voter fraud.

Remember that the majority of police and members of the military are sympathetic to the right, not to the left. A very smart, would-be dictator who understands the keys to power could work to either freeze the military, or gain their cooperation.

And the Breaker group has several of those smart, ruthless people.

We gotta wake up.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – January 10, 2021

Since Wednesday, there’s been a lot of talk about what to call what happened at the Capitol. Biden said the same day that: “It borders on sedition.” The Federal Criminal Code defines “seditious conspiracy” as an effort by two or more people:

“to conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof.”

Sure sounds like it was Sedition Wednesday in Washington DC. Geoffrey R. Stone, a legal scholar at the University of Chicago opined:

“Normally, it refers to speech that advocates action or beliefs that are designed to overthrow or undermine the lawful processes of government…”

An attempt to prevent Congress from acknowledging the results of the presidential election is certainly an attempt to prevent the lawful functioning of the federal government. Sounds like sedition to Wrongo.

So, let’s get them arrested, and tried ASAP.

A side note: What is truly difficult to fathom is that our Capitol was taken down in less than an hour by the folks from “Duck Dynasty.” DC is among the most policed cities in the world. There are 36 separate Law Enforcement Agencies in the District and yet, the takeover easily happened. On to cartoons.

Capitol Police decision rules for sending backup:

Here’s what I did. After it was done, I blamed Antifa:

Pence paid for his brief moment of courage:

Trump’s cue cards:

Stacy Abrams delivered for Biden and the Democrats:

The Joker: A view of Trump from Mexico by Antonio Rodriguez Garcia:

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The Complicated Question of Policing

The Daily Escape:

Winter, Stowe VT – photo by John H. Knox

Many in politics and the media have remarked about how, during the pro-Trump mob invasion of the US Capitol on Wednesday, surprisingly few police stood in the way.

Law enforcement had known that the protests were coming for days, but the Capitol Police appeared totally unprepared for the insurrection. They didn’t even lock all the doors. Videos showed some police calmly talking with attackers after they moved into the building.

As of now, five people have died in the attack, and of the ten thousand or so who surrounded the Capitol, and the hundreds who broke into the building, police have arrested only 69 people. The approach Capitol Police used on the mob was distinctly different from how police forces in DC handled protesters just a few months earlier during the summer of 2020, at anti-racism demonstrations following the police killing of George Floyd. From Business Insider:

“The figure pales in comparison past protests in the nation’s capital, such as the 194 protesters arrested during an anti-racism protest following the police killing of George Floyd, or the 234 arrested protesting Trump’s inauguration — neither of which involved a violent attack on the heart of the US government.”

In Minneapolis after Floyd’s death, 570 people were arrested. In Ferguson, Missouri following the police killing of Michael Brown, there were 400 arrests.

It turns out that the tepid response by police to the Capitol insurrection isn’t an aberration.

Roudabeh Kishi, director of research with the nonprofit Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project says that authorities are more than twice as likely to break up a left-wing protest than they are a right-wing protest.

She says discrepancies we saw in DC on Wednesday are another example of a trend her team has been tracking for months: “We see a different response to the right wing.” This is the first time that data have been collected documenting what White protesters have long perceived: That police tend to crack down on left-wing protesters, and align with those on the right wing. Kishi’s very important report is here.

Eddie Glaude, professor at Princeton, said on NPR that the attempted coup and the law enforcement response raised the question of who has the right to protest in America:

“…what was very clear to me is that there is a sense in which some people who happen to be White are accorded the rights of citizenship and the right to dissent and others are expected to be grateful. And that was in clear view yesterday in terms of how the police responded to a mob insurrection…”

More from Glaude:

“Ever since 1960s…the marches, the Black Power movement, there’s this sense that protests from the left represent an existential threat to the country. Protests from the right… [are] viewed as a kind of patriotic gesture, whether it’s [Ammon] Bundy…defending…”against federal intrusion.”…. It’s almost as if we’re more comfortable with the right…that…tends toward a kind of white nationalism than we are with those that we often want to associate with socialism.”

To be clear, the people complaining about the inaction by the Capitol police aren’t suggesting that there should have been a bloodbath at the Capitol.

The answer isn’t that we want cops to use excessive force on everyone. It’s that we want law enforcement to show restraint whenever possible. They should be exercising good judgment and not be aggressive bullies who escalate violence and make confrontations worse.

While the data are new, politicians at all levels ought to read Kishi’s report, and root out in their police, the bias in favor of the White Right. It is in keeping with long-documented biases in how police think about and treat Black people compared with white people, and with research that shows police and military personnel overlapping significantly with the same far-right groups they treat preferentially.

Scott Galloway reminds us that in “The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity, former Berkeley professor Carlo M. Cipolla says that a truly stupid person causes damage to others while deriving no gain, or even possibly incurring losses.

Like Trump and his militia.

On Tuesday night, Democrats won two of the more important and unlikely Senate victories in Party history when they defeated Republican Senators Loeffler and Perdue. So let’s try to relax while remembering 2020 was a year of sadness, and that the past seven days were really the last week of 2020.

That’s now behind us. We move on to the Biden Inauguration and wiping all the Trump shit off of our shoes.

Time for our Saturday Soother. Let’s listen to The Choral Scholars of University College Dublin performing “Auld Lang Syne”, in November 2020. It was written by the Scottish composer Robert Burns in 1788:

The title can be translated into English as “long, long ago“.

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The Attempted Coup

The Daily Escape:

Trump supporters storm the US Capitol in Washington D.C on January 6, 2021. – Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP

Yesterday, while driving home after the gym, Wrongo thought that it would be a good day for some champagne, given the Democrats’ double play in Georgia that had flipped control of the Senate.

By mid-afternoon, that idea was dead.

What we saw in the Capitol on Wednesday ranks near the top of a very short list of unimaginable and historic insults to the American system. Wrongo was in college when JFK was killed. He was in the US military when RFK and MLK were killed, but none of those events make his top three insults to our way of life, and our democracy.

Wrongo’s top three have all occurred since 2000. They are: the 9/11 attack, Katrina, and Wednesday’s attempted coup. All demonstrated how weak our government is when truly threatened. We were threatened from outside on 9/11 by al-Qaeda, threatened by Mother Nature in Katrina, and finally, we are currently threatened by fellow citizens seeking to install Trump as president, despite his losing the election.

It’s hard to overstate what happened yesterday. The Capitol was attacked. Guns were drawn. People died. Congressmen and senators had to hide. And the president’s allies in the mob and in Congress tried to overturn the election. Let’s give some perspective to the attack on the Capitol.

  1. Trump has organized an armed militia within the Republican Party. Our politicians and press watched him do it. In some cases, members of both groups facilitated the organizing!
  2. What happened yesterday was a national effort. Fox News reports that at the same time the takeover of the US Capitol was happening, like-minded protesters descended on state houses, prompting multiple evacuations. Fox reports that protesters entered state houses in 11 states.
  3. The Capitol invaders came disturbingly close to achieving their objective. Sen Jeff Merkley tweeted a photo of the boxes containing the Electoral College ballots that were rescued from the Senate floor just before the rioters broke in. The boxes were removed by Senate floor staff. Otherwise they could have been taken by the rioters and destroyed. Had that happened, Biden’s Inauguration would certainly have been delayed.
  4. The Capitol Police were utterly unprepared. Why? The likely attack was well known in advance. For weeks, Trump supporters openly discussed the idea of violent protest on the day Congress would meet to certify the result. Leaders of the Stop the Steal movement called their Wednesday demonstration the Wild Protest, a name taken from a tweet by Trump that encouraged his supporters to take their grievances to the streets of Washington. It “Will be wild,” he tweeted.
  5. Quite a few of the Capitol Police didn’t put up a real fight. Some took selfies with the rioters. Similarly, neither the DC cops, nor the Capitol Police, treated these White terrorists as terrorists. We need to recognize that in America today, police forces are filled with extremists who sympathize with people like the White terrorists who stormed the Capitol. There needs to be a cleansing of extremists from the police, or they will become a force multiplier for the Trump militia.
  6. How America handles White conservative protestors versus how America handles protestors of color is clear. The summer’s Black Lives Matter protests in DC had a very impressive show of National Guard support. For Wednesday’s White Right protests, the Guard wasn’t called in until after the Capitol had been breached. Many noted that DC cannot protect itself. It needed approval from the Commander-in-Chief, who in this case, was one of the enemy. This provides a compelling reason for DC to be granted statehood.
  7. Last night finally made it clear that unchecked authority is incompatible with the Constitution. Some Republican politicians (but too few) finally understood that their posturing has consequences. Some Trump appointees responded appropriately to the coup attempt, citing their oath to the Constitution. But others dawdled until Mike Pence took action. It will take some time until we understand why some decided to continue to protect the president rather than the Constitution.

What happened yesterday was unprecedented in the nation’s history, and we’re not out of the woods. It is 13 days until Trump most likely plunges the nation’s capital into havoc again by refusing to leave the White House. His destruction of our norms shouldn’t go unanswered, and the Constitution offers remedies. Now the Cabinet and the Congress must pursue them. There must be a cost for his coup attempt. Trump must pay.

Today, Trump stated that he will leave office, but he also promised to sustain his insurgency. On top of everything else Biden has to deal with, he now has to coup-proof the US government

Wrongo attended a few riots in the 1960s. Biden needs to figure out if this coup attempt represents the true feelings of a large segment of the population, or not. The danger is that tens of millions of armed Americans who won’t simply stand down are behind yesterday’s coup attempt.

But some riots can be simply sound and fury. They can peter out, either because they don’t represent a large enough segment, or it’s clear that they can’t change the thing they’re angry about.

We’re stuck with hoping that this battle will return to being waged on Twitter and Facebook, and not in the streets. It’s somewhat encouraging that the protestors were taking selfies and souvenirs, not setting up barricades.

It’s hopeful that every Republican of consequence has turned on Trump. Maybe, he’s finally disgraced.

Those Republicans who supported Trump now understand that they must uphold the Constitution, not Trump. Those that continue to support him will end their political careers.

Let’s hope it’s over.

Here’s a song for Trump to go out on: Let’s listen to “Commander-in-Chief” by Demi Lovato. It’s a powerful anti-Trump message:

Lyrics:

Commander in Chief, honestly
If I did the things you do, I couldn’t sleep
Seriously, do you even know the truth?
We’re in a state of crisis, people are dying
While you line your pockets deep

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Trump’s Subversive Ploy

The Daily Escape:

Sunrise, Mauna Kea, HI – 2020 photo by laramarie27

When the joint session of Congress begins on Wednesday at 1 pm, all eyes will be on VP Mike Pence. He has a ceremonial role with just three duties: Open the states’ envelopes, hand them to tellers to count, and announce the winners.

  • Article 2 of the Constitution dictates that the president of the Senate, (Mike Pence) shall open the envelopes that contain the electors’ votes and the certifications from every state. Then it says that the votes shall be counted, but it doesn’t specify how. So Congress remedied that with:
  • The Electoral Count Act of 1887 along with subsequent statutes are designed to minimize the role of Congress in election disputes, giving that responsibility clearly to the states. The Act specifies the procedures states should follow to resolve disputes, how they should certify the results, and the fact that each state’s governor should send those certified results to Congress.

If those procedures are followed, then those certified electoral votes will be counted. But in Trumpland, things are always different.

At the joint session, as Pence opens each state’s envelope (in alphabetical order), he hands it to four tellers— two chosen by the Senate, two by the House— who then count the electoral votes inside and keep a running tally. The objections in writing to a particular state’s electoral votes by a member of the House and a member of the Senate must happen prior to beginning the counting process for the next state.

Sen Ted Cruz (R-TX) announced that he’s going to object to Arizona’s votes. Arizona is third in alphabetical order, but no Republican will object to the votes from Alabama or Alaska since Trump won both states. Expect a few Republican House back-benchers to join Cruz.

There will likely be objections to the votes from Arizona, Georgia, and Pennsylvania, and maybe more. The Representatives and Senators will then retreat to their respective Houses, debate the objection for up to two hours, then vote on it. And this will happen for each state that Trump is trying to overturn the electoral vote results.

At the conclusion of this kabuki play, we will get a definitive count of Republicans who are happy to undermine democracy on the basis of lies, conspiracy theories, and grifting. This should be the easiest vote of their careers: simply doing their Constitutional duty. But, as Michael Gerson says:

“They not only help a liar; they become liars. They not only empower conspiracy theories; they join a conspiracy against American democracy. They not only excuse institutional arson; they set fire to the Constitution and dance around the flame…..they are no longer just allies of a subversive; they become instruments of subversion.”

Settle in for at least a day (possibly two) of tediousness.

If there were no objections, then after the tellers counted all the electoral votes, they would hand the results to Pence, who would then be required to announce the names of the winning president and vice president. In this case, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

But on Wednesday January 6, 2021, roughly half of all the elected Republicans in the federal government will vote to overthrow America’s democratic system. Republicans have not only decided Democratic victories are illegitimate, this is now their playbook for prosecuting their case.

They have been getting progressively and more conspiratorial and transparently undemocratic. Their behavior in these final days of the 2020 election cycle shows that there is no limit to how far they can go.  So they will go farther. They always do.

They’ve decided it’s to their advantage to blow up our democratic system and assert that no election is valid unless they win it. That’s where we are today. Sadly, it’s also likely where we’ll be in Georgia Tuesday night after the polls close, and before the final tallies are in.

Objections have happened before. It’s not a big deal, but it becomes a big deal when one Party turns the vote certification process into enough of a circus that people believe the election was stolen.

Unfortunately, that ship has sailed.

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Monday Wake Up Call – The Republican’s Electoral Vote Ploy

The Daily Escape:

Mammoth Terraces, Yellowstone NP – photo by Jack Bell Photography

This picture is a perfect metaphor for America at the start of 2021. What we see is beautiful, but it sits on top of a mega-volcano that could erupt at any time. This could describe what our nation sees in January.

Little in America works anymore. Friend of the blog Pat M. said that when she asked the food bank in her small coastal town on the New Jersey shore what they needed most, they said “diapers”. Her town is an upscale place that much like down-scale places across America, has citizens in desperate need.

Imagine being a mom in middle class America who can’t afford to diaper her baby….

Our politics (and our politicians) have failed our people. There’s plenty of proof of that: The hard-hearted inability of Congress to pass relief legislation until it may have been too late for some. And the so-far disastrous federal rollout of the coronavirus vaccine proves that the Trump administration is incompetent at their jobs.

Democracy now starts its first week of 2021 living dangerously. We knew that a few Republicans would object to the counting of the Electoral Votes of certain states. That the certification of Electoral Votes would be delayed to handle objections by politically motivated back-benchers in both Houses of Congress. This game plays out on Wednesday. We’ll watch Republicans attempt to throw out enough of the votes of Americans in a few states, to keep Trump in power.

That effort will fail, but we should see it for what it is. There’s a through line from impeaching Bill Clinton, to refusing Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland a hearing, to Republicans in Congress refusing to confirm the election of Joe Biden. From Paul Campos:

“The logical and perhaps inevitable extension of the principle ‘we won’t confirm any Democratic Supreme Court nominee if we have the votes to block it’ is ‘we won’t confirm any Democratic winner of a presidential election if we have the votes to block it.’”

Republicans don’t have the votes to block Biden right now, but it’s one of their goals for the  future. Back to Campos:

“…Don’t fall for the claim that Mitch McConnell in particular was powerless here: The Senate majority leader has enormous formal and informal power to sanction deviationist members, by for example stripping committee assignments, blocking pet legislation, calling big soft money donors etc…”

From the NYT:

“Vice President Mike Pence signaled support on Saturday for a futile Republican bid to overturn the election in Congress next week, after 11 Republican senators and senators-elect said that they would vote to reject President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory when the House and Senate meet to formally certify it.”

The NYT normally pulls its punches, but this article speaks of “unambiguous results,” that every state has “certified the election results after verifying their accuracy,” and that Republicans have attempted to question those results by “offering vague suggestions that some wrongdoing might have occurred” and amplified them via “specious claims of widespread election rigging that have been debunked and dismissed.

That the Times says straight out that the GOP wants to overturn the election doesn’t matter at all to today’s Republican Party.

Our social and political systems depend on the maintenance of informal norms as much as they depend on adherence to formal rules. Our most basic norm is the assumption that sociopaths are and will remain, unable to control our systems. We count on society’s guardrails to keep us from flying off the track. Here’s something to think about:

  • All of Congress were elected in November, including those Republicans who are objecting to the election results.
  • Among the Senators signing onto the effort are: Steve Daines (R-MT), and Senators-Elect Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), and Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), all elected in November.

All are objectors to Biden’s election, but none of them are objecting to their own wins on the same day, on the same ballots, using the same election systems.

Let’s give the last word to Heather Cox Richardson:

“Democracy depends on a willingness to transfer power peacefully from one group of leaders to another. By revealing that they refuse to do so, the members of the “Sedition Caucus,” as they are being called on social media, are proving they are unworthy of elected office.”

Wake up America! The next time you see a Republican lose it when an athlete takes a knee during our National Anthem, remind them that they sat back and watched Trump and his supporters attempt to dismantle our democracy.

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