Rehnquist

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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The days are dwindling for us to take action. Get up! Do something to make things better.

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The Fine Print:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. There are lots of smart, well-informed people. Sometimes we agree; sometimes we don’t. Search for others’ views and decide for yourself.
  3. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
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JA


Copyright 2022 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Gaming Out the Election


Reading time – 5:25  .  .  .

Friend Mel passed along a link to a USA Today article which reported an exercise that was conducted by both red and blue pundits who gamed out the upcoming election. The report said:

“After gaming out various scenarios, the group said its conclusions were ‘alarming:’ In an election taking place amid a pandemic, a recession and rising political polarization, the group found a substantial risk of legal battles, a contested outcome, violent street clashes and even a constitutional impasse.”

Click through and read the frightening essay after reading this post. It is guaranteed to keep you awake at night. On the other hand, it’s highly likely that nothing in the essay will surprise you.

With any luck, Biden’s team is gaming this out for themselves and is prepared both to defend against Trump’s anticipated outrageous malfeasance and to go on offense to protect the election and the nation.

Trump knows no boundaries, so expect more strategy-free actions to promote himself, like sudden and complete U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan with absolutely no plan for or consideration of consequences. He would do that just so that he can claim a bigly win right before the election. That’s the kind of thing that has to be gamed out by Biden’s team, because Trump would do even worse. That’s especially important in light of the 20th anniversary of Bush v. Gore. There’s a history lesson from that mess of an election that applies to today.

The question was what to do with the very problematic intermediate Florida election results, a decision that would determine the winner of the presidential election. Have a look at this piece of the dissent to the 5-4 Supreme Court decision in favor of Bush:

“What must underlie petitioners’ entire federal assault on the Florida election procedures is an unstated lack of confidence in the impartiality and capacity of the state judges who would make the critical decisions if the vote count were to proceed. Otherwise, their position is wholly without merit. The endorsement of that position by the majority of this Court can only lend credence to the most cynical appraisal of the work of judges throughout the land. It is confidence in the men and women who administer the judicial system that is the true backbone of the rule of law. Time will one day heal the wound to that confidence that will be inflicted by today’s decision. One thing, however, is certain. Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year’s Presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the Nation’s confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law. [emphasis mine]”

That was written by Justice John Paul Stevens, with Justices Breyer and Ginsburg concurring.

They were right. Confidence in the judiciary in general has fallen precipitously since that decision. Confidence in the Supreme Court itself dropped 15% following the Citizens United debacle in 2010. That was predicted by Justice Stevens in his blistering dissent and no amount of Justice Scalia’s arrogant certitude could stop the loss of respect for the Supreme Court. Making things worse, Trump has delivered a regular drum beat of infantile tantrums attacking the courts when he doesn’t get his way, further undermining confidence in our judiciary.*

The point of inserting the Bush v. Gore reference is concern about public acceptance of any judicial decision affecting our upcoming election. Indeed, Bush v. Gore was an enormous trust killer for millions of Americans. By extension, it raises concerns for our 2020 election if a judicial decision goes against what Trump supporters want. Indeed, in 2016 Trump predicted violence in the streets if he were to lose the Republican nomination, almost giving permission to his supporters to be destructive.

Bear in mind that he has been undermining the judiciary and stoking violence since 2015. He announced that he would pay the legal fees for supporters at his rallies who physically attack protesters. He told us there were “good people on both sides” in Charlottesville, even as one side was threatening violence. And he had his goons attack Black Lives Matter protesters in 7 cities. Clearly, he encourages violence.

The point is that those dissenting justices in the Bush v. Gore case were right. Judicial decisions that are adverse to Trump are almost certain to be disrespected and rejected by his supporters. That’s driven in large measure because of the loss of confidence in our courts and the disrespect for our system of justice that has been building for years. Trump has orchestrated the worsening of this, fanning the flames of anger and violence.

Speaking to the despair, anger and self-hatred in America, Anne Applebaum wrote in her new book, Twilight of Democracy, quoting Donald Trump:

“You know what solves [this]? When the economy crashes, when the country goes to total hell and everything is a disaster. Then you’ll have  .  .  .  riots to go back to where we used to be when we were great.”

And here we are with a crashed economy and so much is a mess, a disaster even, while at the same time respect for our institutions, including the judiciary and the rule of law, is at such a low ebb. Note, too, how frighteningly close Trump’s prediction of violence is to that of the folks who recently gamed out our upcoming election (see above).

We aren’t just in strange times; we are in times that may transform into physically perilous times. Whatever firmament we used to have has become a leaky boat in a hurricane.

Back to Bush v. Gore for a moment:

In a later full counting of all votes cast in that election as tracked down by numerous investigative reporters Gore won Florida by 537 votes. But Chief Justice Rehnquist had announced the Supreme Court’s decision to stop the counting of votes in Florida, which gave the state and the presidency to Bush. It is accurately said that elections have consequences. So do judicial decisions.

That Gore wasn’t sworn in as president brought us 9/11 (Bush ignored multiple warnings of an imminent attack); two continuing, fraudulently crafted wars (justified by lies too numerous to list); Bush’s refusal to capture Osama bin Laden at Tora Bora, which led to the invasion of Afghanistan and an episodic backward march of the goal posts; the effectively homicidal Katrina response; the financial meltdown of 2008; a decimated State Department and alienated allies; and the grossly expanded national debt through starting two wars and cutting taxes at the same time. All of that and more hinged on a judicial decision.

The conservative Supreme Court justices got their way in the Bush v. Gore case. They also got their way in disemboweling the Voting Rights Act and by supporting states’ actions to create massive voter suppression. Those decisions, complemented by Citizens United and other decisions harmful to We the People undermined confidence in the rule of law. And for the past four years that’s been joined by Trump’s cheating, lying, stoking violence and hatred and even insurrection.

All of that is why it’s so important that Biden’s team is gaming out everything so that they are ready.

We can’t change public trust in the judiciary in just the next 75 days, so there is literally only one way to ensure we protect against further deterioration of our democracy and create a hedge against violence in our streets:

We must vote to create an overwhelming defeat of Donald Trump in November.

If you doubt that, just recall the mobs of angry people who stormed the Michigan and Ohio state houses in May. Many were carrying guns. Many were brandishing semi-automatic weapons. The threat of violence if they didn’t get their way couldn’t have been clearer. And those demonstrations were just to protest efforts to stop Covid-19. In the absence of an overwhelming defeat of Trump in November, what do you think those people and others similarly inclined will do?

The pundits reported in the USA Today piece were gaming out the upcoming election. But this is no game. This is life and death for people in our streets and for our democracy itself.

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Covid Corner 1-2-3

1. From STAT, reporting on seemingly random distribution of face masks by the Trump administration:

“A 140-student charter school in Florida received 37,500 masks [from the Trump administration], for instance. A beekeeping company got 500 masks as an “emergency services” provider, and despite reports of Covid-19 cases in hundreds of facilities, few poultry producers received any masks. ‘If you can’t find a method to the madness a few months later, it may mean it’s all madness,’ Juliette Kayyem, a former Obama administration-era homeland security official tells STAT. “Where did those masks actually go?” Read more here.”

2. Be sure to print last Wednesday’s post; then cut out and tape the face mask graphic to your refrigerator and front door, per instructions.

And check out this from “STAT.” It’s a confirmation and update of what you learned from your Required Reading about the spread of the pandemic in the July 15 post.

3. Headlines of the Week

Dumb story:

‘This is no longer a debate’: Florida sheriff bans deputies, visitors from wearing masks

Tragic Story:

Finally,

Admiral (Ret.) William McRaven was the top guy of our Navy Seals and the head of all of our Special Operations Forces worldwide when they captured Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden and when they rescued Captain Phillips. He is a greatly decorated veteran and scoffs at the title “hero;” nevertheless, that’s what you’ll call him when you read his book, Sea Stories. Better yet, get the audio book and listen to him tell his stories in his own voice.

Further, click here to take in his commencement address at the University of Texas (Austin) in 2014. Then go make your bed. You’ll understand that last after you watch his 19 minute video.

Most important for right now, read Admiral McRaven’s essay in The Washington Post regarding our upcoming election. He gets this right.

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* From the apolitical University of Denver Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System (IAALS) blog last September:

James Lyons, a longtime lawyer and one-time diplomat, offers the view that President Trump’s attacks on our judges and the rule of law undermine the legitimacy of the legal system in unprecedented ways.

Here’s a link to Lyons’ paper, “Trump and the Attack on the Rule of Law.”

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Ed. note: We need to spread the word so that we make a critical difference, so

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!).
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all to be better informed.

Thanks!

The Fine Print:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. Sometimes I change my opinions because I’ve learned more about an issue. So, educate me. That’s what the Comments section is for.
  3. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
  4. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

JA


Copyright 2022 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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