mushroom cloud

Elections Have Consequences


April 7, 2022

On Thursday the Senate of The United States voted 53 – 47* to confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court. Without Georgia having elected two Democrats to the Senate in 2020 and the country having elected a Democrat to the presidency at the same time, you likely wouldn’t even know Judge Jackson’s name. But you know it now.

Caroline Randall Williams, Writer-in-Residence at Vanderbilt University, said of Jackson’s confirmation that once again a Black woman had, “dragged democracy back into the light.” It’s good to hear from the poets in order to put things into proper perspective.

We’ve taken another small step toward a more perfect union.

Elections have consequences.

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It was early 2000 and Governor Jeb Bush of Florida and his Secretary of State, Katherine Harris, had completed the enormous job of removing tens of thousands of Black people from the voting rolls. POOF! Voting rights were evaporated from people – citizens – to whom the right to vote was supposed to be guaranteed.

But these citizens were likely to vote for the Democrat in the upcoming presidential election, so the Republicans put their thumbs on the scale to prevent that from happening. Well done, Jeb, and a really in-the-family thing to do for your big, doofus brother. But even with Jeb’s cheating, the election was a nail biter and a recount was ordered.

With the recount proceeding and the vote count close but slightly in his favor, George W. Bush brought suit to stop the recounting of votes. The case went to the Supreme Court (Bush v. Gore) where Republican Chief Justice William Rehnquist presided and the Court declared that the vote recount must stop.

Instantly, that disenfranchised about 20,000 voters in the panhandle of Florida, because their votes had not yet been recounted. That’s a lot of voter disenfranchisement and it did the trick, because that area was slightly more Democratic than Republican. The state’s electoral college votes went to Bush and he became President. Later, full counts of the vote would show that Gore actually won by over 300 votes. Too bad for him and too bad for the nation. Here’s why.

Not long after that election I was having breakfast with a CEO I coached. The restaurant owner unexpectedly turned on the radio so that all could hear the breaking news of the disaster that came to be called “9/11.” Once we realized what was happening my friend said, “Good thing Bush won. Can you imagine what it would be like if Gore were President now?”

Actually, I could, but that’s for later.

Bush lied us into a war in Iraq, having preposterously told us that secular Saddam Hussein was in cahoots with radical Islamist Osama bin Laden. He made up the “yellow cake” and “aluminum tubes” lies and had his National Security Advisor, Condoleeza Rice, terrify the nation, warning us repeatedly that the the smoking gun could be a mushroom cloud.

So, we went off to war against a nation that had not harmed us in any way. Bush told us that the Iraqis would receive our military as liberators from the evil Saddam Hussein and would greet them with flowers. That didn’t happen. And he told us that the war would be paid for with Iraqi oil. But the Iraqi oil belonged to the Iraqis, not the U.S., so it wasn’t ours to take as payment for invading. Anyway, the oil money plunder didn’t happen, either.

And, of course, Bush sent our people after Osama bin Laden. They had him cornered in the caves at Tora Bora in Afghanistan and needed additional military muscle to seize him. Bush refused and instead invaded the entire country.

His lies and ineptitude led us into 20 years of war there and seven years of war in Iraq. Over 6,700 Americans were killed, about three times that many were injured and an uncountable number of Iraqis and Afghanis were either dead, wounded or displaced. He squandered trillions of dollars and managed to destabilize the entire region.

Click the pic to see more. BUT: See Note 5 below.

Bush led Republicans on a new testosterone march, where “supporting our troops” meant no critical thinking was allowed about what we did as a nation. Any challenge to his divine word was unpatriotic, we were led to believe, because “You’re either with us or you’re against us.”

At the same time the NRA was glorifying weapons of war and much of the nation began to equate violence, bravado and bullying with patriotism. Indeed, in Ryan Busse’s frightening book Gunfight, My Battle Against the Industry that Radicalized America, he writes,

“By the time Bush left office, the US public bought nearly seven thousand AR-15s every single day [italics original]. The country embraced even larger numbers of the guns as symbols of freedom, symptoms of fear, and statements of patriotism.”

Elections have consequences.

So, yes, I can imagine what it would have been like if Gore had won. He wouldn’t have lied us into those two catastrophic wars, the region might be stable today, there would be a buffer on Iran’s western border and a bunch of people who died would still be alive.

Maybe we wouldn’t have enthusiastically embraced bullying as a main tool of our politics and even our interpersonal relationships. Maybe AR-15s and other weapons of war wouldn’t be so popular and we wouldn’t have far more guns in this country than people.

To be fair, had Gore been president we still would have our pathological daily mass shootings, assault rifles likely would still be the dream of couch commanders and testosterone junkies. The NRA and right wing extremists would still be blaming lefties for every problem in America and they would seek to divide us using their us-versus-them hate speech. But we might have some common sense restrictions on guns and gun ownership. And justice would have found Osama bin Laden in a Tora Bora cave about 10 years earlier.

Elections have consequences.

Next came an intelligent, even-tempered Black President who offered a welcome groundedness. He was obviously guilty of the felony of being President While Black and that lit the racist torches and brought us constant insane propaganda and power grabs. Opposing and making Barack Obama a one-term President became the Republicans’ “job number one” and they completely abandoned their job of dealing with America’s vexing challenges.

And, of course, there was the nonstop blizzard of lies, even about Obama’s birth. The lying was so common that it became a repugnant snowball of hatred rolling downhill. It grew and launched an unstoppable avalanche of cruel fictions and propaganda.

Elections have consequences.

40% of the public loved the lies and cruel fictions and the self-righteous power rush of hatred that brought them. And that brought us Trump.

When he announced his candidacy he let us know immediately what he was about by declaring that Mexicans are rapists and murderers and later told us that he could grab women .  .  . anywhere. You know the rest of the mental derangement, but his Russia-fueled election brought us a dismantling of our societal and constitutional norms that had been honed over the centuries, as well as his incitement to hatred.

What is most striking is the spinelessness of the people who could have prevented his worst. All it would have taken was for Republicans to speak out and act with integrity.

From Busse’s book, quoting a highly respected firearms editor at Field and Stream Magazine,

“A United States in which someone can be ruined for voicing an unpopular opinion is a dangerous place.” p. 195

Again quoting Busse, now writing about a revered writer on hunting and guns who spoke out against assault rifles:

“They’re crucifying the guy, and none of us [industry people] dare say anything, or we’ll end up like him!” p. 195

That’s what myopic self-interest looks like and our spineless Republican politicians know it well.

Opposing Trump might, indeed, be an unpopular thing to do in Red State America and doing so has proven disastrous for more than a few traditional Republican congressional careers. But what if all the Republicans had stood as one and opposed Trump’s hatred for others and for our Constitution? Perhaps Trump could have been contained.

The engine section of a Russian missile from Vladimir Putin. It exploded at the Kramatorsk train station, killing 50 and wounding over 100 Ukrainian women, children and old people on April 8. The hand-painted Russian words on it translate to “For the children.”

But they didn’t and he still isn’t. And that’s a key outcome of the 2016 election. It had huge consequences, to the point that our democracy itself is now at risk.

Self-styled American faux-patriots with big mouths and even bigger egos are siding with Vladimir Putin, as he rampages through Ukraine, intentionally killing civilians and committing other war crimes. At the same time, the big mouths are castigating President Biden for doing too much to support Ukraine or too little, anything at all, as long as they are criticizing and belittling the President. There isn’t anything remotely patriotic about siding with Putin or baselessly attacking the President, yet millions listen to these blowhards.

All of that and more are consequences of the Bush stolen election, the racist reactions to the Obama election and Trump’s Russia-fueled election.

Elections have consequences.

They have repercussions that reverberate for decades and can be ruinous if we allow it.

But we don’t have to do that.

We can vote to silence the haters and the demonizers. We can vote to stop the bullying and find ways to actually live with one another peacefully. We can vote so that elections help us move toward that more perfect union envisioned by the Founders. It’s time to vote to move in that direction – while we still can.

Elections have consequences. Choose yours wisely.

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* Senators Collins, Murkowski and Romney are the Republicans who voted to confirm Jackson. Doing so should not have required courage. All the rest of the Republicans voted against her confirmation. When the count was announced, Democrats and the gallery enthusiastically cheered the Justice-to-be. The 47 rudely stormed out of the Senate chamber. Sadly, that’s America today.

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Copyright 2022 by Jack Altschuler
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