By Ralph Nader
“Trump’s Next Coup Has Already Begun…” is the title of an article in the Atlantic, just out, by Barton Gellman, a Pulitzer Prize winner and author of many groundbreaking exposés. He describes the various maneuvers that Trump-driven Republican operatives and state legislators are developing to overturn elections whose voters elected Democrats from states with Republican governors and state legislatures. Georgia fit that profile in 2020 – electing two Democratic senators in a state with a Republican legislature and governor.
Getting ready for 2024, the Georgia GOP legislature has stripped the election-certifying Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, of his authority to oversee future election certifications. The legislature has also given itself the unbridled authority to fire county election officials. With Trump howling his lies and backing his minion candidates, they created a climate that is intimidating scores of terrified election-precinct volunteers to quit.
Added to this are GOP-passed voter suppression laws and selectively drawn election districts that discriminate against minorities – both before the vote (purges, arbitrary disqualifications), during the vote (diminishing absentee voting, and narrowing dates for their delivery), and after the election in miscounting and falsely declaring fraud.
The ultimate lethal blow to democratic elections, should the GOP lose, is simply to have the partisan GOP majority legislators benefiting from demonically-drawn gerrymandered electoral districts, declare by fiat the elections a fraud, and replace the Democratic Party’s voter chosen electors with GOP chosen electors in the legislature.
Now take this as a pattern demolishing majority voters’ choice to 14 other GOP-controlled states, greased by Trumpian lies and routing money to his chosen candidate’s intent on overturning majority rule, add Fox News bullhorns and talk radio Trumpsters and you have the apparatus for fascistic takeovers. Tragically, a majority of the U.S. Supreme Court Justices – three selected by Trump – has no problem with his usurpation of the American Republic. All this and more micro-repression is broadcast by zillions of ugly, vicious, and anonymous rants over the Internet enabled by the profiteering social media corporations like Facebook.
Anonymous, vicious, violent email and Twitter traffic is the most underreported cause of anxiety, fear, and dread undermining honest Americans working, mostly as volunteers, the machinery of local, state, and national elections, with dedicated public servants. These people are not allowed to know the names behind the anonymous cowardly, vitriol slamming against them, their families, and children.
What are the institutions – public and civic – that could roll back this fast-approaching U.S.-style fascism with the snarling visage of serial criminal and constitutional violator, Donald J. Trump?
1. First is the Congress. Democrats impeached Trump over the Ukraine extortion but left on the table eleven other impeachable counts, including those with kitchen-table impacts (See Congressional Record, December 18, 2019).
All that is going on to deal with Trump’s abuses in any focused way on Capitol Hill, controlled by Democrats, is the House’s January 6th investigation. So far as is known, this Select Committee is NOT going to subpoena the star witnesses – Donald Trump and Mike Pence. So far, the Congress is feeble, not a Rock of Gibraltar thwarting the Trumpian dictators.
2. The federal courts? Apart from their terminal delays, it’s Trump’s Supreme Court and his nominees fill many chairs in the federal circuit courts of appeals. The federal judiciary – historically the last resort for constitutional justice – is now lost to such causes.
3. The Democratic Party? We’re still waiting for a grand strategy, with sufficient staff, to counter, at every intersection, the GOP. The Dems do moan and groan well. But where is their big-time ground game for getting out the non-voters in the swing states? Are they provoking recall campaigns of despotic GOP state legislators in GOP states having such citizen-voter power? Why aren’t they adopting the litigation arguments of Harvard Law School’s constitutional expert, Professor Larry Tribe? Where are their messages to appeal to the majority of eligible American voters who believe that the majority rules in elections? Why aren’t they urgently reminding voters of the crimes and other criminogenic behavior by the well-funded Trump and his political terrorists?
Bear in mind, the Democrats are well-funded too.
4. The Legal Profession and their Bar Associations. Aren’t they supposed to represent the rule of law, protect the integrity of elections, and insist on peaceful transitions of power? They are after all, not just private citizens; they are “officers of the court.” Forget it. There are few exceptions, but don’t expect the American Bar Association and its state bar counterparts to be the sentinels and watchdogs against sinister coup d’états under cover of delusional strongarming ideologies.
5. Well, how about the Universities, the faculties, and the students? Weren’t they the hotbeds of action against past illegal wars and violations of civil rights in the Sixties and Seventies? Sure. But that was before the Draft was eliminated, before the non-stop gazing at screens, and before the focus on identity politics absorbed the energy that fueled mobilizations about fundamental pursuits of peace, justice, and equality.
6. How about some enlightened corporate executives of influential companies? Having been given large tax reductions, sleepy law enforcement regulators, and a corporatist-minded federal judiciary, while the war contracts and taxpayer bailouts proliferate, why should they make waves to save the Republic? The union of plutocratic big business with the autocratic government is one classical definition of fascism.
7. The Mass Media. Taken together, they’ve done a much better job exposing Trumpism than has the Congress or litigation and the judiciary. However, their digging up the dirt does not come with the obvious follow-ups from their reporting and editorializing.
Covering the Ukraine impeachment, but not covering at least eleven other documented impeachable offenses, handed to them by credible voices, left them with digging hard but never hitting pay dirt. Trump has escaped all their muckraking as he has escaped all attempts by law enforcers who have their own unexplained hesitancies. If reporters do not dig intensely into just how Trump and his chief cohorts have escaped jail time and other penalties, their usual revelations of wrongdoings appear banal, eliciting “what else is new?” yawns by their public.
What’s left to trust and rely upon? Unorganized people organizing. What else! That’s what the farmers did peacefully in western Massachusetts in 1774 (See: The Revolution Came Early – 1774 – to the Berkshires) against the tyrant King George III and his Boston-based Redcoats? By foot or by horse, they showed up together in huge numbers at key places. These farmers collectively stopped the takeover of local governments and courts by King George’s wealthier Tories. Their actions can teach us the awesome lessons of moral, democratic, and tactical grit – all the while having to deal with nature and their endangered crops.
What are our excuses?