America’s crippling path to self-destruction is generating more and more concerns from people who should know.
“The republic is in greater self-generated danger than at any time since the 1870s,” says law professor Richard Primus of the University of Michigan.
“If you had told Barack Obama or George W. Bush that you can be re-elected at the cost that American democracy would be permanently disfigured — and in the future America will be a failed republic — I don’t thing would have taken the deal,” Primus told columnist Frank Bruni of The New York Times. “I don’t think the survival of the republic means anything to Donald Trump.”
Primus is not alone. “‘I’ve never been more worried now about American democracy than I am right now,” writes Richard Hansen, professor at the University-Irvine School of Law, in Slate.
If we are lucky enough, the election will not be close, and we will avoid this election meltdown only to start panicking again in the run-up to 2024. But if it is close, all bets are off.
We should not think of the litigation and the wild claims of voter fraud as separate from one another. Instead, they are part of a play to grab power if the election is close enough. There are good legal arguments against a power grab, but if another body tries to overturn the will of the people in voting for president, there will be protests in the streets, with the potential for violence.
This is a five-alarm fire, folks. It’s time to wake up.
“Throughout the campaign, Trump has sought to undermine voters’ faith in the democratic process—going so far as to suggest, on Twitter, that the election should be delayed until people could “properly, securely and safely” vote. (He later backtracked on the idea, which would require a change to federal law.),” says Jeffrey Toobin of The New Yorker. “Last week, Trump tweeted, “the Nov 3rd election result may NEVER BE ACCURATELY DETERMINED.” The norms of political conduct, already fading at the turn of the century, now seem to have disappeared altogether. As a result, the aftermath of the 2020 election has the potential to make 2000 look like a mere skirmish.”
One Republican, perhaps the one most knowledgeable about how elections really work, has decided that Trump has gone too far. Earlier this month, Benjamin Ginsberg, the scourge of the Gore forces in Florida, wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post, calling out Trump’s baseless provocations about the election. “I spent 38 years in the GOP’s legal trenches,” he wrote. “I was part of the 1990s redistricting that ended 40 years of Democratic control and brought 30 years of GOP successes in Congress and state legislatures. I played a central role in the 2000 Florida recount and several dozen Senate, House and state contests.” Ginsberg denounced Trump’s encouragement of double voting and rejected the President’s claim of widespread voter fraud: “The truth is that after decades of looking for illegal voting, there’s no proof of widespread fraud. . . . Elections are not rigged.”
Ginsberg told me, “I was a tough partisan and proud of it—but I think it’s important for Republicans and Democrats to look at the real evidence of what’s happened over forty years. Unfortunately, Republicans have gotten away from that during this cycle.” For decades, Republican candidates depended on Ginsberg for his counsel and his advice, but there is every sign that he, like all apostates from the cause of Trump, will be ignored and scorned by the President and his allies. Instead, it will be Trump’s party that sets the path to Election Day, and beyond.
“The mechanisms of decision are at meaningful risk of breaking down.” says Pulitzer winner Garton Gellman in The Atlantic. ““The coronavirus pandemic, a reckless incumbent, a deluge of mail-in ballots, a vandalized Postal Service, a resurgent effort to suppress votes, and a trainload of lawsuits are bearing down on the nation’s creaky electoral machinery.”
“Close students of election law and procedure are warning that conditions are ripe for a constitutional crisis that would leave the nation without an authoritative result. We have no fail-safe against that calamity.”
Bruni argues that voters need to give Joe Biden a large-enough margin of victory at the polls to keep this from happening.
He’s our best bid for salvation, which goes something like this: An indisputable majority of Americans recognize our peril and give him a margin of victory large enough that Trump’s challenge of it is too ludicrous for even many of his Republican enablers to justify,” Bruni writes. “Biden takes office, correctly understanding that his mandate isn’t to punish Republicans. It’s to give America its dignity back.”
That may not be enough.
“There is another school of thought: Maybe we need some sort of creative destruction to get to a place of healing and progress. Maybe we need to hit rock bottom before we bounce back up,” Bruni adds. “But what if there’s bottom but no bounce? I wonder. And shudder.”
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