Things are moving fast. It’s been five days since I posted on the U.S. election. Since then, there have been two major developments:
(1) the Green Party’s efforts for an accurate recount in three swing states—Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan—have been effectively thwarted by “legal” maneuvers on the part of local GOP-leaning judges. In Pennsylvania and Michigan the recount is now suspended, and in all three states forensic examination of the machines (for hacking) has been forbidden. Wow. It’s astonishing that a country that claims to be democratic does not permit an accurate count of the vote. The rationale? “There is absolutely no evidence of hacking,” stated one judge. Well, how could there be evidence of hacking if the nation is prevented from getting that evidence by examining the machines?
(2) President Barack Obama has ordered the CIA to conduct a “deep dive into malicious cyber activity.” This is pursuant to the CIA’s conclusion that Russia interfered in the U.S. election not merely to mess around with the democratic system, but specifically to help Donald Trump win the presidency. The story broke in a Dec. 9 article by the Washington Post. Unfortunately, this “is likely to act more as a way to showcase the Obama administration’s efforts, sending a message to the incoming administration about what they believe is important, rather than as a way to provide new information to the public.”
The former acting director of the CIA said yesterday that Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections constituted a significant attack on the United States, calling it “the political equivalent of 9/11” (see also here). “It is an attack on our very democracy. It’s an attack on who we are as a people,” Mike Morell told The Cipher Brief. “A foreign government messing around in our elections is, I think, an existential threat to our way of life. To me, and this is to me not an overstatement, this is the political equivalent of 9/11. It is huge and the fact that it hasn’t gotten more attention from the Obama Administration, Congress, and the mainstream media, is just shocking to me.” Shocking as such hacking is, however, no suspicion is being placed on the vote totals or on the election results. How strange.
Throughout this campaign—before, during, and after the Nov. 8 election—I have frankly been mystified at the docility with which the Democratic Party has accepted (and almost invited) defeat. The election was Hillary’s to lose—she was a clear favorite right up until the last moment. But time and time again, the Democrats fumbled the ball, unable to even get a fairly minor issue like Clinton’s emails off the front page. Given the shocking turn of events on the evening of November 8, Clinton also conceded far too quickly. Even Obama concluded that “Trump won” prematurely. We can be sure that—if Trump had himself lost a narrow election—he would have claimed that the election was rigged. Indeed, he was telegraphing this intention for months. The immense irony is that this election was massively rigged—against Hillary! The evidence is everywhere, from a dozen states. Yet, from the Democrats, we have only a deafening silence. Why are the Democrats being so nice to the GOP? Why did it take Jill Stein and the Green Party to prosecute the vote recounts? Why does it seem like the Democrats are handing this election to the Republicans? We may never know the answers to these astonishing questions.
Though Donald Trump will probably forever deny it, the truth is that Clinton easily won the popular vote—now by the huge margin of almost three million votes. This means that—even despite the uphill battle that Hillary waged against GOP voter suppression of blacks and minorities—she came in with the second highest popular vote count in history (second only to Obama’s 2012 margin of victory). The media blames Hillary for failing to get out the black vote. But she did get out the vote. However, the GOP made sure many, many of those minority votes weren’t counted!
It is hard to imagine a scenario where Trump’s election to the Presidency could be more illegitimate. In this case, everything smells—and on multiple levels. The very avenues that are required to establish Trump’s legitimacy have been systematically and forcefully prevented. By engaging in massive voter suppression, by preventing hand recounts, and by ruling out the checking of voting machines (“forensic examination”), the GOP has sealed its own illegitimacy.
Next: the Electoral College
The next hurdle for the aspiring GOP thievery is the electoral college (EC) vote, scheduled for December 19—precisely one week from this writing. Question: Is it a foregone conclusion that the EC will vote according to tradition, that is, according to the (bogus) Nov. 8 tally—voter suppression and Russian hacking be damned?
Well, maybe not… This has been anything but a traditional election, and reports are surfacing that some electors are reconsidering their ‘pledged’ vote for Trump. Today they demanded that an intelligence briefing about Trump’s ties to Russia (presumably from the CIA) be submitted to them before they cast their vote on Dec. 19.
Now, Clinton needs to gain only 39 electors in order for her to become the next President. (Trump won 309 electors on Nov. 8 vs. Clinton’s 232. Winning requires 270 electors.) And there’s a whole week to go before the EC meets in order to vote.
Neither the Constitution nor Federal election laws compel electors to vote for their party’s candidate. 27 states have laws on the books that require electors to vote for their party’s candidate if that candidate gets a majority of the state’s popular vote. But in the other 24 states, only ‘common practice’ suggests that electors vote for their party’s nominee. Those electors are free agents. And that’s why ongoing events between now and next Monday are significant. Impending developments can still influence this volatile election.
If the Democrats can be accused of flubbing the campaign, Trump can similarly be accused of not doing himself any favors post-election. Instead of bringing the country together for ‘healing,’ Trump is daily dividing us further, choosing cabinet appointments from the far-right, and showing a cavalier disrespect for the law and even for the Constitution itself. As regards his vast business holdings, Trump announces simply: “The President can’t have a conflict of interest.” Sorry. I doubt his business competitors are going to let that pass, much less the electorate.
It is heartening that the Clinton camp—finally—is coming around to questioning the legitimacy of Trump’s victory. Here’s a pertinent Politico article from today:
In its first show of public support for efforts questioning the legitimacy of Donald Trump’s victory, Hillary Clinton’s campaign said it is supporting a request by members of the Electoral College for an intelligence briefing on foreign intervention in the presidential election… “We now know that the CIA has determined Russia’s interference in our elections was for the purpose of electing Donald Trump. This should distress every American.” (John Podesta, Clinton campaign manager.)
[This] represents the latest effort by Democratic electors to look to the Electoral College as a possible bulwark against a Trump presidency. The letter follows on the heels of two Democratic congressmen — David Cicilline of Rhode Island and Jim Himes of Connecticut — who suggested this weekend that the Electoral College should consider whether to block Trump’s election.
Clinton, her top advisers and former President Bill Clinton, who’s an elector for New York, have remained silent on the various Electoral College machinations.
…The Democrats argue that it’s their duty not simply to rubber-stamp the Election Day results but to “investigate, discuss, and deliberate with our colleagues about whom to vote for.”
Lately, Trump has not been helping his own cause. Besides being an extremely divisive force in the electorate, he is also proving to be astonishingly divisive in government itself. Trump calls the CIA investigation into election hacking “ridiculous”—thus pitting the CIA against the FBI (which came to his aid in the final days of the election campaign with Comey’s re-opening of the Clinton email issue). Trump also refuses daily intelligence briefings—he says he’s “a smart person.” Umm, just how ‘smart’ is a President without intelligence? (You can interpret that question anyway you like.)
But it’s no time for laughter or bad jokes. The situation is altogether ominous for the U.S.A. Fostering division, as Trump does, shows that he intends to govern not by consensus but by force.
And that, my friends, is called tyranny. —René Salm