Joe Biden won the election.
Say it with me.
Joe Biden won the election.
The 2020 election was free and fair, with extraordinary turnout. There is no evidence of any widespread fraud in any state. To the contrary, the 2020 election was an impressive display of a functional democracy amidst an unprecedented pandemic.
Let’s say the important part again though, this time with feeling:
There is no evidence of any widespread fraud in any state.
If you’re a Trump supporter, you need to accept this truth. Maybe it’s hard to swallow, but it is the truth and everyone will be better for your accepting it. Joe Biden won the election fair and square and it wasn’t particularly close. It can’t be said enough that Biden won, not to gloat, but to reaffirm reality and hopefully realign the current trajectory of our politics.
Trump wanted you to think that the election was rife with fraud, or that mail-in ballots were somehow themselves unconstitutional or fraudulent. He was entitled to challenge his assertions in court, and challenge he did: Trump and his “elite” squad of lawyers brought dozens of cases in swing states (not the states he won, of course, even where they had the same laws and procedures) aimed at overturning the results of the election. He failed spectacularly, having all but one of his 64 cases dismissed or flatly rejected by court across the country, some by judges he himself appointed. The one case he won, incidentally, was reversed by an appeals court.
In Wisconsin, one federal judge wrote that Trump’s claims relied on a “fundamental and obvious misreading of the Constitution”, that the claims lied “somewhere between a willful misreading of the Constitution and a fantasy”, concluding that “it would be risible were its target not so grave: the undermining of a democratic election for President of the United States.”
In Michigan, a court wrote that Trump attorneys “raised false allegations and pursued unsupportable legal theories”, referring those attorneys for sanctions. Another said the “plaintiff’s interpretation of events is incorrect and not credible.”
In Georgia, a judge wrote that “Plaintiff seeks an extraordinary and unprecedented remedy: the decertification of the votes cast in the presidential election, after millions of people lawfully cast their ballots.”
In Pennsylvania, they tried to invalidate mail-in ballots themselves, trying to claim that they were ALL somehow unconstitutional: “This Court has been presented with strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations unpled in the operative complaint and unsupported by evidence.”
In Arizona, courts wrote that the “Evidence does not show fraud or misconduct, illegal votes, or erroneous vote count”, that “Plaintiffs failed to provide the Court with factual support for their extraordinary claims”, that “Allegations that find favor in the sphere of public gossip and innuendo cannot be a substitute for earnest pleadings and procedure in court”, and “the Complaint’s allegations are sorely wanting of relevant or reliable evidence.”
Following a cascade of embarrassing legal losses, Trump attorney Sidney Powell gave a most extraordinary press conference, blaming everyone from China to Cuba to Venezuela, and even the deceased leader Hugo Chavez for alleged hacks of the voting machines.
After countless similar allegations by Powell and her compatriots on the right-wing news outlet Newsmax, Newsmax eventually came out with the following statement, presumably after a spectacular cease-and-desist letter from Dominion voting machines.
When his baseless claims of voter fraud and interference failed, Trump tried to bully his way to the win. After trying to call the Secretary of State of Georgia Brad Raffensberger 18 times, Trump threatened the Republican with criminal penalties while telling him to “find” 11,780 votes. The entire call is extraordinary, if only for the mob-boss feel that Trump has trying to get Raffensberger to change the outcome of the Georgia election for him. Since more than just Georgia would have been required for Trump to win the election, one can only imagine the calls he made to other state officials that weren’t recorded.
Since election day, President Trump has been full-speed ahead with his “stop the steal” campaign. On numerous occasions, Trump has claimed that he won the election, by a landslide no less. Again, this is unequivocally, factually false. Trump and his minions, of course, know this (and some have now admitted to that) but didn’t care. They chose to perpetuate the lie and to create an alternate reality for their followers — a reality where all they had to do was tell Mike Pence to not count the votes at certification and Trump would get to be president again. In this alternate reality, after the Vice President overturns the will of the voters, the election would go to the House of Representatives under the 12th amendment and Republicans in the House would select Trump as president. Even if Pence had gone along with it, it would never have withstood Congressional or Constitutional scrutiny. The plan was always dead-on-arrival.
Claiming fraud has been the plan all along for Trump, that much is obvious, and Trump’s enablers in the House and Senate have gone gleefully along for the ride. Senators Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, and others objected to the certification based on bare allegations of fraud in individual states, allegations already borne out by the courts as being devoid of any factual or evidentiary merit. At best, it was a political stunt, at worst a coordinated attack on the legitimacy of American democratic government. They claimed that those electoral votes, which were submitted by state officials and legislatures who all properly certified the results of their respective elections, were invalid because of these baseless allegations. As a result, they claimed, the votes shouldn’t be counted in accordance with the prescribed constitutional process. While the objection procedure they used was (superficially) valid, their bad faith in making those objections was palpable. To intentionally invent a false reason to overturn an election in favor of the loser, amounts to a bloodless coup. It’s that simple, and those objectors who signed on to these outrageous theories are responsible for perpetrating that coup. They should each be expelled from their respective chambers for trying to subvert the results of a free and fair election.
On January 6, 2021, the lame duck Trump came home to roost and the bloodless coup drew blood. After days of publicly pressuring the Vice President to eschew his constitutional duty and try to overturn the election, Mike Pence, who has been Trump’s most loyal soldier from day one, didn’t go along with the plan. Instead, he endeavored to carry out his limited constitutional role by simply presiding over the certification of the ballots and counting the electoral votes. It is a pro forma exercise for the Vice President (in his duties as president of the senate), the excruciating clarity of which is spelled out in the 12th Amendment: “The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted.” Note the word “shall” — it is Constitutionally required for Pence to count the votes.
Trump, knowing in advance that Pence was not going to follow his orders, doubled down. Just prior to the joint session of Congress, he held a rally near the capitol building. Rudy Guiliani told the crowd it was time for trial by combat. Trump told them to fight. He told them he would march to the capitol with them (then promptly got in his car and left). He incited the mob.
That same mob attacked the capitol building of the United States of America. While there is still a lot about the insurrection we don’t yet know, the details that have come out are chilling. Rioters broke down the doors, smashed the windows, looted the offices, smeared feces on the walls, and stole sensitive equipment from the Speaker of the House. They chanted “Hang Mike Pence” over and over and constructed gallows. They appear to have murdered a capitol police officer by beating him with a fire extinguisher. They carried zip ties to take hostages and texted their comrades about putting a bullet in Nancy Pelosi’s head. They planted functional pipe bombs at the capitol and the headquarters of the RNC and DNC. Some reports say rioters had detailed plans of the capitol building, allegedly provided by members of Congress. One radical Congresswoman was live-tweeting the location of the Speaker as rioters attacked. During the attack on the capitol, the president attacked Mike Pence on Twitter. The more details that come out, the more horrifying it gets.
This was not just a protest gone wrong; all indications are that this was a planned attack orchestrated by right-wing terrorists and led by Q-anon fanatics. They had been open about it for weeks online and authorities were woefully unprepared. There are even some indications that police and even the federal government may have been involved, whether tacitly or actively, in assisting the rioters. Either way, the Trump faithful somehow managed to occupy the American capitol during a joint session while they were conducting a sacred democratic ritual. This was a coup. A sloppy, unsuccessful coup for sure, but nonetheless a coup attempt. It should be treated as such by every prosecutor in the land. No quarter should be given to those involved and appeasement cannot be tolerated.
Nothing about the attack, or the incitement, was a coincidence. In the most eloquent response yet to the calamity in the capital, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger rightfully compared this incident to Kristallnacht — a precursor to Nazi fascism that so many Germans followed “step by step” until they were in too deep. I know in my heart that America’s democracy is stronger than that of pre-Nazi Germany, but I could be wrong and the parallels are haunting. We will get through this, but only once there is an honest reckoning about the cancer that eats the body politic in this country.
At the time of writing, Trump has failed to put flags at half-mast for the slain police officer. He has not called the family or expressed condolences. He has not spoken to Mike Pence since the insurrection, who is said to be enraged (not surprising given the mob was coming for him specifically). Trump watched with satisfaction as the rioters stormed the capitol. He failed to authorize the National Guard to protect the capitol building until it was too late. He told the rioters that he loved them and that they’re very special. Perhaps worst of all, he lives with a mind-boggling self-assurance that he has not done anything wrong.
Chris Christie said this morning that if this doesn’t qualify as something requiring impeachment and removal, then nothing does. He couldn’t be more right. Inciting a violent mob to attack another branch of government is as bad as it can get for a president. This form of sedition, perhaps even worse than treason for — hypothetically — if he had sold state secrets to the Russians, is as bad as it gets. He lied to his followers — an enormous, nation-changing lie — that he won the election. He made them believe the lie. He tried to cheat to make the lie seem real. When all else failed, he turned to mob violence aimed at Congress and his own Vice President. Outside of the Civil War itself, there has never been anything like it in American history. It needs to be punished with impeachment, removal, disqualification from holding office in the future, and prosecution. Anything less is condoning political violence and betraying the truths about democracy that we hold self-evident.
But that’s not the whole story. As has always been the case, his enablers continue to enable; one might say that those in Congress who have coddled the president for years are even more culpable. While some of the Republicans in Congress have turned on him since the coup, others are calling for us to move past this; that impeaching or otherwise removing the president would be anathema to coming together after a tragedy. They’ll tell you that we can’t fulfill Joe Biden’s vision of unity if we subject the nation to another impeachment. Don’t believe their crocodile tears.
Politicians who think that we should move on from something like this without everyone responsible paying extraordinary consequences are part of the problem. If they can’t be honest about how it happened, they will never be part of the solution. Without a full reckoning, there can be no moving on and we’ll never reunite; this will happen again and again and again. If we appease those who would subvert democracy, we permit each new subversion. Next time, the violence will be swifter and deadlier — with smarter leadership. Next time, the mob will be better armed and the capitol will fall, perhaps Congress itself will be victims. If we don’t come down hard on those who fostered, encouraged, and rooted for this American coup attempt, we will be relegated to the list of historical democracies that succumbed to dictatorship or destruction.
In order for unity to ever be an option again, those who enabled this behavior for the last 4–5 years must admit their mistake. They must apologize and make strides to change their behavior in favor of truth and democracy. There is no forgiveness without repentance and in the absence of repentance, only justice will suffice.