By Ralph Nader
The Republican and Democratic Parties have been evaluated in many ways but not often by the standard of sheer energy levels. Compare the ferocious drive by Trump, Republican Senators and Representatives, Attorneys General, and Governors in promoting, with baseless allegations and buckets of lies, overturning the presidential election. Of the more than 50 election lawsuits filed by Trump’s Republican allies, almost all of them have been promptly thrown out of court.
The wildly frivolous efforts by Trump and his cronies have provoked a rare public letter, signed by over 1,500 lawyers, including past presidents of bar associations, urging disciplinary proceedings against the lawyers representing craven Republican operatives in their attempted electoral coup. (See: lawyersdefendingdemocracy.org)
Even after the Electoral College voted on December 14, 2020, to declare Joe Biden the winner, the Trumpsters are continuing their reckless fanaticism. Extreme Trumpster Congressman Mo Brooks (D-AL) plans to lead a move on January 6, 2020, to demand that the House and the Senate refuse to certify the Electoral College decision.
Now let’s go back to the George Bush/Al Gore presidential election in 2000, where there were real shenanigans. It all came down to Florida’s electoral votes, notwithstanding Al Gore winning the national popular vote by about 500,000. Thousands of people were prevented from voting because they had names similar to the names of ex-felons who were purged from the voting rolls. Ari Berman’s Nation magazine article, “How the 2000 Election in Florida Led to a New Wave of Voter Disenfranchisement” reports: “If 12,000 voters were wrongly purged from the rolls, and 44 percent of them were African-American, and 90 percent of African-Americans voted for Gore, that meant 4,752 black Gore voters—almost nine times Bush’s margin of victory—could have been prevented from voting.” According to Florida’s Sun-Sentinel newspaper, “The felon lists were compiled by Database Technologies Inc., now part of ChoicePoint Inc., an Atlanta-based company. In 1998, DBT won a $4 million contract from the Florida secretary of state’s office to cross-check the 8.6 million names registered to vote in the state with law enforcement and other records.” Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush’s brother Jeb Bush was Florida’s governor during this horrendous disenfranchisement.
There were also deceptively confusing ballot designs in three Florida counties that tricked voters into voting for the wrong candidates.
And there was the judicial coup d’état stay by the U.S. Supreme Court, led by Republican Justice Antonin Scalia that blocked the ongoing statewide recount ordered by Supreme Court of Florida which would have awarded the state and the election to Al Gore.
Democrats meekly accepted this whole sordid episode, apart from their lawsuit. Vice-president Al Gore, presiding over the U.S. Senate rejected pleas from House Democrats to challenge the Electoral College certification. Al Gore had already accepted arguably the most blatantly, politically partisan Supreme Court decision “selecting” George W. Bush on December 12, 2000.
The 2004 presidential contest, between George Bush and John Kerry, came down to the swing state of Ohio. By 118,601 thousand votes, the Republican Secretary of State awarded the state to Bush/Cheney. There were, in the days before the election, claims of Republican skullduggery, including voting place irregularities, obstructions of voters, and flaws in proprietary software used in the vote-counting process. Kerry’s vice-presidential running mate, Senator John Edwards begged Kerry not to immediately concede and to wait for more revelations. But Kerry threw in the towel the day after the election.
Civic leaders in Ohio took their concerns about electoral wrongdoings to the veteran lawmaker, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) who held public, unofficial House hearings on the subject. It was too late to change anything, but the hearings did cast a shadow over the GOP which the establishment Democrats quickly forgot about.
In 2009, the Fox Television-driven launch of the Tea Party movement, having more than 350,000 engaged volunteers, roiled the back-home town meetings of Republican members of Congress and secured a clenched-teeth grip on the House of Representatives with some three dozen true believers. This small cohort, self-named the Freedom Caucus, had an outsized veto over Rep. Speaker John Boehner and eventually drove him to resign.
The seventy or eighty Progressive Caucus members in the House have scarcely generated a ripple with their demands on the House Democratic Leadership of Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Energetic, demanding Democratic resisters in the House hardly exist, whether on overdue anti-corporate crime legislation, labor law reform to remove barriers to organizing trade unions, fundamental corporate tax reform, corporate-managed “free trade,” or runaway militarism.
The Progressive Caucus could not even broaden the Impeachment proceedings last November/December to include the well-documented daily violations of the Constitution by Trump (See: December 18, 2019, Congressional Record, H-12197). There was little significant energy in the Democratic ranks when Obama won the White House and the large congressional majorities in the House and Senate in 2009-2010. The weak Democrats didn’t rollback many Bush actions and continued Bush’s foreign and military policies.
What accounts for the difference between the two parties? Well, the Republicans are really into their trilogy – get more tax cuts and subsidies, get even less regulatory law enforcement and keep the war machine humming. The rank-and-file Republicans also slam the Democrats on abortion, judicial nominations, immigration, and being soft on crime.
The Democrats have to themselves the bread-and-butter family economic issues, worker and environmental injustices, and addressing the meager public services, and our crumbling infrastructure. These issues should really fire up the Democrat Party base. Unfortunately, the Democratic Party is controlled by smug, entrenched people living in the exclusive top one percent. Why should they exert themselves? Especially since lassitude invites more campaign money than ever before.
The national civic groups have many progressive agendas but can’t find congressional sponsors that make up a determined force on Capitol Hill. When they can find somebody like Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) to introduce a bill, it is largely ignored and becomes a one-day news story release.
A junior Representative from Georgia, Newt Gingrich, through sheer willpower built a powerful political base. He toppled two Democratic House Speakers Jim Wright and Tom Foley, took over the House of Representatives in 1994, and became the House Speaker in 1995.
Senate tyrant Mitch McConnell defies red and blue state governors, mayors, federal and state lawmakers, social service groups, and overwhelming public opinion by blocking the stimulus-relief legislation for months.
What Democratic Senators or Representatives have this energy level?
It was Kevin Phillips, the big business-aware, Republican strategist and writer who years ago provided the apt metaphor: “Republicans go for the jugular, and the Democrats go for the capillaries.” It is beyond troubling that the Democrats haven’t increased their level of energy to confront the worst, cruelest, most corrupt, GOP in history. The delusional Trumpist Party didn’t lose control of any state legislatures, held the Senate, nearly retook the House, and didn’t lose one House Republican incumbent.
Just under 400,000 votes, in the six battleground states of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, gave Biden his Electoral College victory! Democrats wake up!