The Electoral College is voting today and things suddenly look right in the world. People are more relaxed; the tight lines on their faces loosen into lips, even smiling lips, the eyes regain their glitter. They’re no longer slumped, their shoulders have risen about half a foot, there’s even a gleam on their faces.
We’re back, they seem to say. This country is back.
It’s Joe Biden’s message time and time again: We’re better than this. We’ll heal and things will be fine once again. We’ve fought for our democracy and we’ve won, now it’s time to go straight on.
As if Proud Boys marching on the streets of Washington, DC is no big deal.
As though a majority of House Republicans backing a claim of fraud that has been rejected at all court levels is no big deal.
As though states joining a motion asking for millions of votes to be thrown out by the Supreme Court is nothing at all.
As though millions of people actively opposing the results of the election with absolutely no proof is no big deal.
It’s done, it happened, now we can go down the center in the same merry way we’ve done in the past. Life is back to normal.
I never thought I’d say that I miss the generations of presidential candidates who actually served in wars. Remember Robert Dole and his paralyzed right arm? Remember George H. W. Bush and his Distinguished Flying Cross? John McCain and John Kerry? John Kennedy? Their military service, when they risked their lives, was an example of patriotism, of devotion to country and its values.
It sounds so old fashioned now, who would have thought I’d grow nostalgic? That I would recall people who had an appreciation for the rules of the game, ready to play it to the very end to their own cost, swallow down pain and defeat, and go back to do more work?
It looks good for a Joe Biden inauguration on January 20, but I think it’s downright dangerous to ignore how so many opposed and continue to oppose the results of this election, questioning the legitimacy of Biden’s presidency. You might say that it’s only a relatively few fanatics who keep on repeating the mantra of Stop the Steal, that most don’t march on state capitals with guns or stab folks in back streets of our nation’s capital, that most Republicans back Trump because, after all, he’s their guy and they hate to see him lose, but they don’t mean anything bad by it.
Let me tell you, it’s the passive ones I’m worried about. Not the ones who advertise their intentions with photo ops, but the ones at home who pretend nothing terrible is really happening, they’re backing their guy because, well, he’s their guy, and isn’t that just what’s to be expected? They’re not doing anything terrible. They’re not parading down streets in big trucks and flags, but if he could get away with it, hell, why not?
Those are the ones I worry about. There are millions and millions of them, folks who aren’t about to fight to steal an election, but if a gutsy vanguard manages to do it, or a supreme court gives its vapid consent or an electoral college is manipulated (look at how they tried to push through Virginia’s Harry Byrd instead of John Kennedy in the 1960 Electoral College out of fear of what Kennedy would do for civil rights)—well, then why not? He’s our guy, after all.
What pisses me off in Joe Biden is that he’s too nice in the face of this unfolding disaster—and yes, even though he’ll win, this is a disaster and it continues to unfold, openly and actively; it ain’t going anywhere. People have learned and are learning that there are ways to discredit or go around elections, and that you can do it at no cost. No one is pointing a finger at you, no one is castigating your name for the ages. I don’t think this is just Biden’s persona, it’s also a strategy for how he wishes to move forward.
It’s not a viable strategy. At this point we need indignation, we need outrage. Other than Nancy Pelosi, who else is ready to yell to the highest heavens that this will not stand? Trump and his allies take all the airtime with their allegations of fraud, they dominate the news cycles, over and over again giving the message: Yes, you can steal elections—if not this one, then the next one, or the one after that. One day, you’ll win.
You might say: We’ve had enough indignation and outrage for a century, let’s go back to normal. Face it: Learning how to steal elections is becoming the new normal.
The birther conspiracy against Barack Obama was the first lesson. It was difficult to contest that election, so they tried to invalidate Obama’s presidency by casting doubt on his birth. They tried it with Kamala Harris. And now they’re trying it again, this time by casting doubt on the entire operation. They’ve upped the ante.
There are a couple of different views here. One says that the problem is the radicals on both sides, that both are angry, both don’t talk to one another, both are way too partisan for a middle America. Yes, there are radicals on the left side as well, but I don’t remember any concerted effort in 2016 to take Trump’s win away from him. A few hoped the Electoral College would stop him, but that was fantasy; no political leader participated in that scheme.
The second position is that after January 20 people will accept the results and we’ll be fine. But this is the second consecutive time that the validity of a Democrat president is being questioned. It’s the first time that a majority of Republican Congress people are actively participating. Why? If the Supreme court had given them a win, terrific. If not, they had nothing to lose. They didn’t wish to antagonize their boss, and most of their constituency doesn’t seem to mind pushing at the boundaries, trying to get what they can get. If they end up casting doubt on democratic elections, no big deal.
It’s great that Republican governors, secretaries of state, attorneys general and supervisors of elections have stood up for the fairness and soundness of their local elections, only to be reviled, threatened, and told to resign. But look at the national Republican leadership!
Ahead of us is one of those highway crashes that end holiday hopes for many people. If not in 2020 or 2021 then in 2024 or 2028, but not too far in the future. You have to be blind not to see it. Maybe we need that crash, I think to myself in despondent moments. Maybe that’s the only way we’ll get rid of an Electoral College system that had its origins in racism and protecting slavery.
Thomas Paine wrote: “What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly,”
It’s not those carrying guns I worry about. It’s not those in brown shirt uniforms or making big salutes. It’s the rest of us quiet ones: the ones who say: Why not take it as far as it can go, after all he’s our guy, and the quiet ones on the other side who keep on assuring us that things will go back to normal on January 20.
It’s always the quiet ones.