The Cooperative Society Newsletter
July 2022, Issue 36
by E.G. Nadeau, Ph.D.
Let’s start with a subtle series of quotes from William Barr referenced in a recent New Yorker article:
Bill Barr did not think much of Donald Trump’s lies about the 2020 election. According to his videotaped testimony before the House select committee investigating how those lies resulted in the storming of the Capitol on January 6, 2021, Trump’s former Attorney General told Trump this to his face. Among his choice words about various claims by the Trump legal team: “bullshit,” “completely bullshit,” “absolute rubbish,” “idiotic,” “bogus,” “stupid,” “crazy,” “crazy stuff,” “complete nonsense,” and “a great, great disservice to the country.” What’s more, Barr added, if Trump actually believed the garbage he was spewing about the election, then he had become dangerously “detached from reality.”
The hearings currently being conducted by the “Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the United States Capitol” may rival, or even exceed, the impact on the future of American democracy of the 1973 Senate Watergate Hearings. While the 1973 hearings played a pivotal role in bringing about President Nixon’s resignation by exposing his involvement in the Watergate break-in, the current hearings may reduce the likelihood of future coups and preserve democratic electoral processes in the United States for decades to come.
Some have questioned the political balance on the committee between Democrats and Republicans (seven of the former and two of the latter). However, the facts that the committee co-chair is Liz Cheney, a conservative Republican congresswoman from Wyoming, and that in the seven committee hearings held to-date, the majority of the testimony has been by Republicans with close links to the Trump administration, has dispelled some observers’ concerns about committee bias.
It’s too early to tell what impact these hearings will have on the perception of Trump’s involvement in the January 6 insurrection, or of his continuing “Stop the Steal” campaign of election lies. But, since the hearings began, a recent poll has shown a weakening in support for Trump as a 2024 presidential candidate.
So, kudos to the bipartisan January 6 committee! Congratulations have to be qualified, however, because we have yet to see the conclusions and recommendations of the committee’s final report, scheduled to be completed before the November midterm elections. Also, if the Democrats lose control of the House, the new Republican majority is likely to immediately terminate the committee and reject its recommendations. Similarly, if the Republicans win control of the Senate, any bills resulting from the committee’s work would hit a dead end there.
Despite these negative scenarios, the committee’s courageous work on behalf of American democracy will never be forgotten.
But, uh-oh, the threat to our democracy is not over yet
Not by a long shot.
Regardless of the persuasive evidence that the committee amasses and reports regarding the activities surrounding the January 6 coup attempt, that does that not mean that it will preclude future such attempts to steal elections in the United States. The unprecedented attempt to undermine the 2020 presidential election has unfortunately set the stage for more of the same in future elections.
A number of efforts are underway by Trump-assisted and inspired national, state, and local Republican officials and candidates and by the current conservative Supreme Court to disenfranchise voters in future elections. Four main strategies are being pursued:
- Gerrymandering is ameans to change the boundaries of voting districts to unfairly benefit one party over the other. In recent years this sleazy technique has been used far more by Republicans than by Democrats. And, unfortunately, the Supreme Court has effectively sanctioned this practice, even in a case that was clearly racially motivated.
- Voter suppression is an umbrella term covering dozens of electoral rules that make it more difficult for some groups of citizens to vote than others. A number of Republican-controlled state legislatures have enacted such rules in recent months. For example, requiring photo IDs tends to discourage voting by the elderly end the poor, who are less likely to have a drivers’ license than the rest of the adult population. Another example is reducing the number of polling places, which makes it more difficult for people without their own transportation to get to the polls. And on and on.
- Legitimating the “independent state legislature” doctrine is an even more extreme tactic for disenfranchising voters. It involves a sketchy interpretation of the Constitution that argues that state legislatures should have the final say in approving or disapproving a set of electoral results. With the support of this doctrine by an extreme Supreme Court, a state legislature could arbitrarily decide that a set of election results were invalid, and substitute its own “victorious” candidate or slate of candidates, ignoring the will of the voters. A recent article in The Economist makes the case that the adoption of this anti-democratic doctrine is not so far-fetched given the current political orientation of some Republican-dominated state legislatures and the wacko majority on the U.S. Supreme Court.
- Electing governors and secretaries of state who agree to reject “unfavorable” election results is an equally insidious means to steal elections. Trump and his loyalists attempted this type of approach in the 2020 presidential election, but were thwarted by ethical Republican officials at the state level. However, there is a concerted effort underway to elect secretaries of state and governors in 2022 who would be willing to overturn the results of free and fair elections by refusing to ratify them, and substituting slates of “fake” electors.
The need for future federal legislation that would preclude stealing presidential and other elections
Such legislation may be hard to come by in the near future, due to opposition by many currently serving Republican members of Congress.
How do we address this democracy-threatening problem?
- A key first step would be a national mobilization of voters to preserve American democracy by electing officials at all levels who oppose the types of shenanigans outlined above.
- After voting the rascals out and their ethical replacements of both parties in, pass federal legislation that guarantees voter rights and cannot be interpreted to allow for manipulation of vote counts at the local, state, or federal levels. Note that there is a bipartisan committee in the Senate that is planning to introduce legislation to preclude the kind of electoral shenanigans attempted by Trump and his loyalists in the 2020 presidential election and being planned for 2024.
- As extreme rightwing members of the current Supreme Court retire, select future members who clearly and explicitly oppose the independent state-legislature doctrine and other ideologically based positions that would undercut free and fair elections in the United States. Part of this transition could be based on the passage of federal legislation that limits the tenure of Supreme Court justices to fixed terms, for example 10 years.
In its public hearings, the January 6 Committee is doing an excellent job of exposing in gripping detail the big lies pushed by Trump and his loyalists about a stolen presidential election and the many illegal actions that they and others have taken to launch a coup to install him as an illegitimate president.
However, the committee’s job, and indeed the job of the American people, of shoring up our democracy and ensuring that we will be safe from future such insurrection attempts is still in its early stages.
This article has outlined some of the threats to American democracy that are still very much unresolved. It has also presented key steps that we can take to counter these threats.