January Crises

This month may be the most critical month in U.S. history since the Civil War.

Consider the past few days:

On Saturday, Trump called Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and spent an hour on the phone trying to convince, cajole, and threaten him to switch votes and give Trump a win in Georgia. To cheat. To commit a crime. To “find” Trump votes that do not exist. Raffensperger refused. 

They were not the only ones on the call: Trump’s chief of staff and a couple of his lawyers were on the call, as was a lawyer for Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. Who, by the way, is a Republican and has presided over not only the election but also TWO recounts, all of which showed that Biden won.

Raffensperger repeatedly told Trump that he would not change the votes. That Trump lost. Trump trotted out one crazy conspiracy theory after another. They have all been debunked before. Trump repeats them over and over without any proof. Judges—including judges appointed by Trump—have thrown out more than 60 cases challenging the election results. 

All of his crazy conspiracy theories are just plain wrong. 

Saturday’s phone call was recorded. You can listen to the recording, if you can stomach it. 

On Sunday, all ten living former defense secretaries signed an opinion article in the Washington Post. That includes two former defense secretaries who served under Trump. They insisted that there is “no role for the U.S. military in determining the outcome of a U.S. election.” They wrote

“American elections and the peaceful transfers of power that result are hallmarks of our democracy. With one singular and tragic exception that cost the lives of more Americans than all of our other wars combined, the United States has had an unbroken record of such transitions since 1789, including in times of partisan strife, war, epidemics and economic depression. This year should be no exception.

“Our elections have occurred. Recounts and audits have been conducted. Appropriate challenges have been addressed by the courts. Governors have certified the results. And the electoral college has voted. The time for questioning the results has passed; the time for the formal counting of the electoral college votes, as prescribed in the Constitution and statute, has arrived.” 

Election officials and family members, including Raffensperger and his wife, have received death threats. Gun-toting Trump supporters gathered outside the home of an election official in Michigan. Others in Arizona and Georgiareceived death threats. Gabriel Sterling, voting system manager in Georgia, warned “Someone is going to get hurt. Someone is going to get shot. Someone is going to get killed.”

Here in Minnesota, State Representative Carlos Mariani tweeted about armed protesters at his family home: 

“Here’s la onda today @ 100 whites in MAGA hats protested #Covid rules at my home Blocked street w trucks, appropriated the U.S. flag, singing “God Bless America” etc. Some w guns, wearing fatigues clothing Terrorism has many faces Democracy is fragile. We must stand together”

On January 6, Congress will open sealed certificates from each state that contain a record of their electoral votes. That is the official count of electoral votes. Then the Vice President will declare the winner. 

Joe Biden won 306 electoral votes. He won the largest number of popular votes of any presidential candidate, ever. He won 7 million more votes than Trump. He won the presidency.

And yet a dozen Republican Senators and a few dozen Representatives have said they will object to the votes. Most Republicans, even including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, say this is wrong, and refuse to join the challenge. Nebraska Republican Senator Ben Sasse denounced the challengers as “institutional arsonists,” and said “Adults don’t point a loaded gun at the heart of legitimate self-government.”

Doesn’t matter. The Trumpists will trumpet their lies. Then each house will conduct a debate, limited by law to two hours for each state that is challenged, with no more than five minutes per speaker. After that, Congress will vote to certify the election. 

After losing the popular vote and the Electoral College vote, after having baseless challenges out of courts up to and including the U.S. Supreme Court, after threats and intimidation of election officials failed to change election results, Trump has called on his more rabid supporters to fill the streets around the Capitol on January 6. 

Congress will still vote to certify the election. There’s no doubt about the outcome. 

The only uncertainty is how far Trump is willing to go to overthrow democracy. 

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