Joe Biden officially became President-Elect with the conclusion of the Electoral College vote cementing Joe Biden’s victory with 306 votes to Donald Trump’s 232. After weeks of keeping silent as the Trump campaign brought 60 lawsuits in the hopes of the Supreme Court ultimately declaring Trump the winner, Biden delivered a rebuke of the efforts by Trump and the Republicans to overturn the election, as notable for the most votes cast in history and the most votes won by a candidate in history, by disenfranchising millions of voters, mostly Black, but declared democracy “resilient, true and strong.”
“In America, politicians don’t take power — the people grant power to them,” Biden declared.
He attacked the unprecedented, relentless but baseless court challenges, culminating in Texas seeking to overturn the results in four swing states, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Georgia to “wipe out the votes of more than 20 million Americans in other states and to hand the presidency to a candidate who lost the Electoral College, lost the popular vote, and lost each and every one of the states whose votes they were trying to reverse.
“It’s a position so extreme we’ve never seen it before. A position that refused to respect the will of the people, refused to respect the rule of law, and refused to honor our Constitution. Thankfully, a unanimous Supreme Court immediately and completely rejected this effort…
“In this battle for the soul of America, democracy prevailed. We the People voted. Faith in our institutions held. The integrity of our elections remains intact. Now it is time to turn the page as we’ve done throughout our history.”
Here is a highlighted transcript of his remarks, as prepared for delivery:
Good evening, my fellow Americans.
Over the past few weeks, officials in each state, commonwealth, and district, without regard to party or political preference have certified their winning candidate.
Today, the members of the Electoral College representing the certified winner, cast their votes for President and Vice President of the United States in an act just as old as our nation itself.
And once again in America, the rule of law, our Constitution, and the will of the people have prevailed.
Our democracy — pushed, tested, threatened — proved to be resilient, true, and strong.
The Electoral College votes which occurred today reflect the fact that even in the face of a public health crisis unlike anything we have experienced in our lifetimes, the people voted.
They voted in record numbers. More Americans voted this year than have ever voted in the history of the United States of America. Over 155 million Americans were determined to have their voices heard and their votes counted.
At the start of the pandemic crisis, many were wondering how many Americans would vote at all. But those fears proved to be unfounded.
We saw something very few predicted or even thought possible — the biggest voter turnout ever in the history of the United States of America.
Numbers so big that this election now ranks as the clearest demonstration of the true will of the American people — one of the most amazing demonstrations of civic duty we’ve ever seen in our country.
It should be celebrated, not attacked.
More than 81 million of those votes were cast for me and Vice President-elect Harris.
This too is a record number. More votes than any ticket has received in the history of America.
It represented a winning margin of more than 7 million votes over the number of votes cast for President Trump and Vice President Pence.
Altogether, Vice President-elect Harris and I earned 306 electoral votes — well exceeding the 270 electoral votes needed to secure victory.
306 electoral votes is the same number of electoral votes Donald Trump and Mike Pence received in 2016.
At that time, President Trump called his Electoral College tally a landslide.
By his own standards, these numbers represented a clear victory then.
And I respectfully suggest they do so now.
If anyone didn’t know it before, they know it now.
What beats deep in the hearts of the American people is this: Democracy.
The right to be heard.
To have your vote counted.
To choose the leaders of this nation.
To govern ourselves.
In America, politicians don’t take power — the people grant power to them.
The flame of democracy was lit in this nation a long time ago. And we now know that nothing, not even a pandemic or an abuse of power, can extinguish that flame.
And as the people kept it aflame, so, too did courageous state and local officials and election workers.
American democracy works because Americans make it work at the local level.
One of the extraordinary things we saw this year was these everyday Americans — our friends and neighbors, often volunteers, Democrats and Republicans and Independents — demonstrating absolute courage. They showed a deep and unwavering faith in and a commitment to the law.
They did their duty in the face of a pandemic.
And then they could not and would not give credence to what they knew was not true.
They knew the elections they oversaw were honest and free and fair.
They saw it with their own eyes.
And they wouldn’t be bullied into saying anything different.
It was truly remarkable because so many of these patriotic Americans were subjected to so much: enormous political pressure, verbal abuse, and even threats of physical violence.
While we all wish that our fellow Americans in these positions will always show such courage and commitment to free and fair elections, I hope we never again see anyone subjected to the kind of threats and abuse we saw in this election.
It is unconscionable.
We owe these public servants a debt of gratitude. They didn’t seek the spotlight, and our democracy survived because of them.
Which is proof once more that it’s the everyday American — infused with honor and character and decency — that is the heart of this nation.
And in this election, their integrity was matched by the strength, independence, and the integrity of our judicial system.
In America, when questions are raised about the legitimacy of any election, those questions are resolved through a legal process.
And that is precisely what happened here.
The Trump campaign brought dozens and dozens and dozens of legal challenges to test the results.
They were heard. And they were found to be without merit.
Time and again, President Trump’s lawyers presented their arguments to state officials, state legislatures, state and federal courts, and ultimately to the United States Supreme Court, twice.
They were heard by more than 80 judges across the country.
And in every case, no cause or evidence was found to reverse or question or dispute the results.
A few states went to recounts. All of the counts were confirmed.
The results in Georgia were counted three times. It did not change the outcome.
The recount conducted in Wisconsin actually saw our margin grow.
The margin we had in Michigan was fourteen times the margin President Trump won the state by four years ago.
Our margin in Pennsylvania was nearly twice the size of President Trump’s margin four years ago.
And yet none of this has stopped baseless claims about the legitimacy of the results.
Even more stunning, 17 Republican Attorneys General and 126 Republican Members of Congress actually signed on to a lawsuit filed by the State of Texas. It asked the United States Supreme Court to reject the certified vote counts in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
This legal maneuver was an effort by elected officials in one group of states to try to get the Supreme Court to wipe out the votes of more than twenty million Americans in other states and to hand the presidency to a candidate who lost the Electoral College, lost the popular vote, and lost each and every one of the states whose votes they were trying to reverse.
It’s a position so extreme we’ve never seen it before. A position that refused to respect the will of the people, refused to respect the rule of law, and refused to honor our Constitution.
Thankfully, a unanimous Supreme Court immediately and completely rejected this effort.
The Court sent a clear signal to President Trump and his allies that they would be no part of this unprecedented assault on our democracy.
Every avenue was made available to President Trump to contest the results.
He took full advantage of each and every one of these avenues.
President Trump was denied no course of action he wanted to take.
He took his case to Republican Governors and Republican Secretaries of State. To Republican state legislatures. To Republican-appointed judges at every level.
And in a case decided after the Supreme Court’s latest rejection, a judge appointed by President Trump wrote: “This court has allowed the plaintiff the chance to make his case, and he has lost on the merits.”
Even President Trump’s own cybersecurity chief overseeing our elections said it was the most secure in American history.
Let me say it again, his own cybersecurity chief overseeing this election said it was the most secure in American history.
Respecting the will of the people is at the heart of our democracy — even when we find those results hard to accept.
But that is the obligation of those who have taken a sworn duty to uphold our Constitution.
Four years ago, as the sitting Vice President of the United States, it was my responsibility to announce the tally of the Electoral College votes that elected Donald Trump.
I did my job.
And I am pleased — but not surprised — that a number of my former Republican colleagues in the Senate have acknowledged the results of the Electoral College.
I thank them. I am convinced we can work together for the good of the nation.
That is the duty owed to the people, to our Constitution, and to history.
In this battle for the soul of America, democracy prevailed.
We the People voted.
Faith in our institutions held.
The integrity of our elections remains intact.
Now it is time to turn the page as we’ve done throughout our history.
To unite. To heal.
As I said through this campaign, I will be a president for all Americans.
I will work just as hard for those of you who didn’t vote for me, as I will for those who did.
There is urgent work in front of us all.
Getting the pandemic under control and getting the nation vaccinated against this virus.
Delivering immediate economic help so badly needed by so many Americans who are hurting today — and then building our economy back better than ever.
In doing so, we need to work together, give each other a chance, and lower the temperature.
And most of all, we need to stand in solidarity as fellow Americans. To see each other, our pains, our struggles, our hopes, our dreams.
We are a great nation.
We are a good people.
We may come from different places and hold different beliefs, but we share a love for this country. A belief in its limitless possibilities.
For we, the United States of America, have always set the example for the world for the peaceful transition of power.
We will do so again.
I know the task before us will not be easy.
It’s tempered by the pain so many of us are feeling.
Today, our nation passed a grim milestone, 300,000 deaths due to this virus.
My heart goes out to all of you in this dark winter of the pandemic about to spend the holidays and the new year with a black hole in your hearts and without the ones you love by your side.
My heart goes out to all of you who have fallen on hard times through no fault of your own, unable to sleep at night, weighed down with the worry of what tomorrow will bring for you and for your family.
But we have faced difficult times before in our history.
And I know we will get through this one, together.
And so, as we start the hard work to be done, may this moment give us the strength to rebuild this house of ours upon a rock that can never be washed away.
And as in the Prayer of St. Francis, for where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith, where there is darkness, light.
This is who we are as a nation.
This is the America we love.
And that is the America we will be.
May God bless you all.
May God protect our troops and all those who stand watch over our democracy.
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt), in remarks at George Washington University regarding the “unprecedented and dangerous moment we are in because of Trump’s unique threats to our democracy” called for unprecedented voter turnout, warning that Trump may well declare victory in Election Night, before the millions of mail-in-ballots are counted, confiscate the ballots to prevent them from being counted, and even instruct Republican legislators to disregard the popular vote and select Trump electors to vote in the Electoral College. If all that, including impeding delivery of mail-in-ballots, calling out thugs to intimidate voters who come to the polls, Trump says he is counting on the Supreme Court, with his third pick already on the court, to hand him the election. Only then, he says, will there be a “peaceful transfer” because there won’t be a transfer at all, but a continuation of power. – Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Here are Senator Sanders’ remarks, highlighted, as prepared for delivery:
Saving American Democracy
This country faces an unprecedented set of crises. We are struggling with a pandemic that has already cost us over 200,000 lives.
We have an economy in which we have a grotesque level of income and wealth inequality, where the middle class is being decimated, where millions of workers have lost their jobs and half of our people continue to work paycheck to paycheck — many for starvation wages.
We are living in the moment when climate change is ravaging this planet, leading to massive fires on the West Coast, drought and unprecedented levels of extreme weather disturbances all across the globe.
We are the only major country on earth not to guarantee healthcare to all people as a right, over 90 million Americans are uninsured or under-insured, and we pay by far the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs.
All of these issues, and others, are enormously important and should be the issues that are being debated in this campaign. But, today, I’m not going to talk about any of them.
What I am going to talk about is something that, in my wildest dreams, I never thought I would be discussing. And that is the need to make certain that the President of the United States, if he loses this election, will abide by the will of the voters and leave office peacefully.
What I will be discussing today is the danger that this country faces from a president who is a pathological liar, who has strong authoritarian tendencies, who neither understands nor respects our constitution and who is prepared to undermine American democracy in order to stay in power.
With less than 6 weeks left to go in this campaign it is my fervent hope that all Americans — Democrats, Republicans, independents, progressives, moderates, conservatives — come together to defend American democracy, our constitution and the rule of law. We must ensure, in this unprecedented moment in American history that this is an election that is free and fair, an election in which voters are not intimidated, an election in which all votes are counted and an election in which the loser accepts the results.
This is not just an election between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. This is an election between Donald Trump and democracy – and democracy must win.
The United States is the oldest continuous democracy in the modern world. We held elections in the middle of a Civil War in 1864. We held free and fair elections during World War I, during the Great Depression, and during World War II. After all of those elections, held in extremely difficult circumstances, the loser acknowledged defeat and the winner was inaugurated and took office. That is what America is all about. That’s what democracy is all about.
But today, under Donald Trump, we have a president who has little respect for our constitution or the rule of law. Today, that peaceful transition of power, the bedrock of American democracy, is being threatened like never before.
I am not in the habit of quoting former President Ronald Reagan, but I think something that he said in his first inaugural address makes the point about how important — how precious — is this part of our heritage. I quote: “The orderly transfer of authority as called for in the Constitution routinely takes place as it has for almost two centuries and few of us stop to think how unique we really are. In the eyes of many in the world, this every 4-year ceremony we accept as normal is nothing less than a miracle.” Unquote.
Protecting this “orderly transfer of authority” as President Reagan characterized it, this miracle, is absolutely essential if we together — all of us, Republicans, Democrats, Independents — want to keep faith with the American ideals we hold so dear and with the sacrifices that so many made in order to protect our democracy.
And in that regard I think it is terribly important that we actually listen to, and take seriously, what Donald Trump is saying.
Several weeks ago, speaking at the Republican National Convention, Trump said, and I quote, “The only way they can take this election away from us is if this is a rigged election.” What is remarkable about that statement is that he made it at a time when almost every national poll had him behind and when he was trailing in polls in most battleground states.
Think about what that statement means. What he is saying is that if he wins the election, that’s great. But if he loses, it’s rigged, because the only way, the only way, he can lose is if it’s rigged. And if it’s rigged, then he is not leaving office. Heads I win. Tails you lose. In other words, in Trump’s mind, there is no conceivable way that he should leave office.
And just last night Donald Trump went even further down the path of authoritarianism by being the first president in the history of this country to refuse to commit to a peaceful transition of power if he loses the election.
When asked by a reporter in the White House briefing room: “Win, lose or draw in this election, will you commit here today for a peaceful transferal of power after the election?” Trump responded:
“We’re going to have to see what happens. You know that I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots, and the ballots are a disaster. We want to get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very peaceful — there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There will be a continuation.”
That’s not his choice. That’s for the American people to determine. Let us be very clear. There is nothing in our constitution or in our laws that give Donald Trump the privilege of deciding whether or not he will step aside if he loses. In the United States the president does not determine who can or cannot vote and what ballots will be counted. That may be what his friend Putin does in Russia. It may be what is done in other authoritarian countries. But it is not and will not be done in America. This is a democracy.
I do understand that Donald Trump is a billionaire, or so he says. I do understand that he was born to a very wealthy family and, from his earliest days, was able to get anything he wanted because his family was rich and his family was powerful. I do understand that when you’re rich and you’re powerful you don’t have to pay taxes like ordinary people and that it’s easy for you to avoid the military draft. I do understand that when you’re rich and you’re powerful you can buy politicians and get hundreds of millions of dollars in corporate welfare for your real estate empire.
But this I also understand. No matter how rich and powerful you may be, no matter how arrogant and narcissistic you may be, no matter how much you think you can get anything you want, let me make this clear to Donald Trump: Too many people have fought and died to defend American democracy. You are not going to destroy it. The American people will not allow that to happen.
Despite all of the evidence, Trump continues to be obsessed with the belief that there is massive voter fraud in this country.
In 2017, after he won the presidency, Trump insisted that he would have won the popular vote, which he lost by 3 million votes, if, quote “millions of illegal votes had not been cast.” There is absolutely no evidence of that being true. In fact, it is totally preposterous to believe that millions of votes, or any significant number of votes at all, were cast illegally. This is an assertion supported by no one. Not Democratic officials. Not Republican officials. No one. And yet that is what Trump said after he won.
There have been numerous studies done on the issue of voter fraud in our country. They have all concluded essentially the same thing. Voter fraud in the United States of America is extremely rare.
An article in the New York Times from December 18, 2016 stated: “In an election in which more than 137.7 million Americans cast ballots, election and law enforcement officials in 26 states and the District of Columbia — Democratic-leaning, Republican-leaning and in-between — said that so far they knew of no credible allegations of fraudulent voting. Officials in another eight states said they knew of only one allegation … In Georgia, where more than 4.1 million ballots were cast, officials said they had opened 25 inquiries into “suspicious voting or election-related activity.” But inquiries to all 50 states (every one but Kansas responded) found no states that reported indications of widespread fraud.”
A report by the Brennan Center for Justice reviewed elections that had been meticulously studied for voter fraud, and found incident rates between 0.0003 percent and 0.0025 percent. The report concluded that it is more likely that an American, quote, “will be struck by lightning than that he will impersonate another voter at the polls,” unquote.
Even the conservative Heritage Foundation, which maintains a database on election fraud, could only find 143 criminal convictions of mail in voter fraud out of 250 million mail-in votes cast over the past 20 years, a rate of 0.00006%.
But you don’t have to trust me on this issue. Benjamin Ginsburg, one of the leading Republican experts on elections, a man who served as national counsel to the Bush-Cheney presidential campaign, a man who played a major role for the Republican Party in the 2000 Florida recount, and who co-chaired the bipartisan 2013 Presidential Commission on Election Administration, recently wrote in the Washington Post, and I quote, “The truth is that after decades of looking for illegal voting, there’s no proof of widespread fraud. At most, there are isolated incidents — by both Democrats and Republicans. Elections are not rigged,” unquote.
Let me repeat from one of the Republican Party’s leading experts on elections: “The truth is that after decades of looking for illegal voting, there’s no proof of widespread fraud. At most, there are isolated incidents — by both Democrats and Republicans. Elections are not rigged.”
And if even the statement of Mr. Ginsburg is not good enough for you, here is what the Trump administration’s own voting integrity commission reported. According to an analysis of administration documents by the Associated Press, Trump’s commission uncovered, quote “no evidence to support claims of widespread voter fraud,” unquote, and disbanded in 2018.
Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tamped down concerns about mail-in ballots last month, saying, and I quote, “Many parts of our country vote by mail. Oregon, Washington and Colorado have voted by mail for years.”
And yet we have a president who calls mail in ballots “a hoax” and “a scam.”
Trump’s strategy to delegitimize this election and to stay in office if he loses is not complicated. Finding himself behind in many polls, he is attempting massive voter suppression. He and his Republican colleagues are doing everything they can to make it harder and harder for people to vote. In addition, he is sowing the seeds of chaos, confusion and conspiracy theories by casting doubt on the integrity of this election and, if he loses, justifying why he should remain in office.
In an interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News, Trump refused to say that he would leave office if he lost. Asked to give a direct answer on whether he would accept the election results, Trump refused. He said, quote, “I have to see. No, I’m not going to just say yes. I’m not going to say no, and I didn’t last time either.” Pretty much what he said yesterday.
In the middle of a pandemic Trump made clear that he wants to defund the Postal Service in order to limit the use of mail in ballots.In an interview on August 13, discussing a possible deal for a relief package that would have funded the post office, Trump let the cat out of the bag by admitting that, quote “If we don’t make a deal, that means they don’t get the money. That means they can’t have universal mail-in voting; they just can’t have it.”
In other words, what Trump is saying to tens of millions of Americans is that at a time when over 200,000 people have already died from the coronavirus, you have a choice: You can either risk your health or even your life by walking into a voting booth or you can’t vote. How disgusting is that?
Amazingly, at the very same time Trump is making completely baseless allegations about voter fraud, last month he urged his supporters in North Carolina to try voting twice, which is a felony.
In order to advance his plan for mass voter suppression, the Trump campaign filed a lawsuit in Nevada, which fortunately was dismissed, challenging the state’s mail-in voting laws.
In July, Trump used false claims of voter fraud to propose delaying this year’s election, which he does not have the power to do. This was so outrageous that Steven Calabresi, the co-founder of the conservative Federalist Society, wrote that it was, quote “grounds for the president’s immediate impeachment again by the House of Representatives and his removal from office by the Senate,” unquote.
Last week, Trump told his supporters at a rally in Nevada that he, quote, “was entitled” to serve a third term, which is obviously a violation of the Constitution’s 22nd Amendment.
On Saturday, Trump suggested to his supporters in North Carolina that he might sign an executive order to prevent Joe Biden from becoming president.
Trump has also urged his supporters to become, quote, “poll watchers,” but what he is really saying is he wants his supporters, some of whom are members of armed militias, to intimidate voters. We’re already seeing this in Virginia, where early voters were confronted by Trump supporters, and election officials in Fairfax County said that some voters and polling staff felt intimidated.
On and on it goes. Every day, over and over again, Trump is making it harder for the American people to participate in the political process and is attempting to delegitimize the outcome of this election so that if he loses he can remain in office.
The concerns that I am raising today are not just mine alone, and are not just concerns shared by progressives and Democrats.
Miles Taylor, a lifelong Republican who previously served as chief of staff inside the Trump administration’s Department of Homeland Security, warned that there is nothing that Trump will not do or say to defeat Biden.
“Put nothing past Donald Trump,” Taylor told The Associated Press. “He will do anything to win. If that means climbing over other people, climbing over his own people, or climbing over U.S. law, he will do it. People are right to be concerned.”
Well, I agree with Mr. Taylor. I am concerned. I am very concerned.
Last week, my former Senate colleague Dan Coats, Trump’s own former Director of National Intelligence, published a piece in the New York Times calling for a high-level bipartisan and nonpartisan commission to oversee the election to reassure all Americans that it has been carried out fairly. Coats wrote, quote, “The most urgent task American leaders face is to ensure that the election’s results are accepted as legitimate. Electoral legitimacy is the essential linchpin of our entire political culture. We should see the challenge clearly in advance and take immediate action to respond.”
I couldn’t agree more. I strongly second Director Coats’ call for this election commission.
Last week as well, Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and I sent a letter to Senator McConnell urging him to hold hearings on the issue of election and post-election security. Senator Schumer and I stated, “We would like to hear from the most knowledgeable people in the country as to how we can do everything possible to make sure that the election and the period afterward is secure and peaceful.”
Majority Leader McConnell: Please respond to that letter. Please establish that bi-partisan committee.
And today I call on every elected official in America whether they be Republican, Democrat or Independent to vigorously oppose voter suppression and voter intimidation, to make sure that every vote is counted, and that no one is declared the winner until those votes are counted.
And to my Republican colleagues in the Congress please do not continue to tell the American people how much you love America if, at this critical moment, you are not prepared to stand up to defend American democracy and our way of life. Stop the hypocrisy.
With or without Donald Trump this election is unique in American history because it’s taking place during a pandemic and a public health crisis.
As a result, states all over America are taking the appropriate steps to ensure more Americans can safely vote by mail in their own homes instead of risking their health or their lives to vote in person.
The result is that this election will see, by far, the largest number of mail in ballots ever.
And let’s be clear. Despite what Donald Trump says, voting by mail is not a new or dangerous idea. Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Utah conduct their elections almost entirely by mail. California, Nevada, New Jersey, the District of Columbia and my state of Vermont have pledged to mail ballots to all registered voters for the upcoming election. And many other states are making it easier to vote by mail. Trump himself, as well as members of his administration, have repeatedly voted by mail. Members of the U.S. military have regularly voted by mail since the 1800s.
Given the significant increase in mail in ballots why, you might ask, are Trump and his allies trying to attack the integrity of our vote by mail system?
The answer is simple. A number of studies have shown that for, whatever reasons, Republicans are more likely to vote in person while Democrats are more likely to use mail in ballots.
In fact, one poll found that only about a quarter of Biden supporters would vote in person on Election Day while some two thirds of Trump voters planned to vote in person.
In other words, if Trump can undermine people’s confidence in the validity of votes cast by mail, he will be calling into question the validity of votes that may overwhelmingly support Joe Biden.
Let us consider the following scenario:
On election night, Trump is ahead in many battleground states based on the votes of those who voted in person on election day. All across the television screens people see Trump ahead before they turn in for the night. But as more and more mail in ballots are counted, Trump’s lead falls. Trump then announces, with no proof, that there has been massive mail in ballot fraud and that these votes should not be counted – and that he has won the election.
In other words, Trump may well announce that he has won the election before all of the votes are counted and that large numbers of mail in ballots should be discarded.
Furthermore, in states where Republicans control the legislature, it is possible that the election results will be ignored because of false accusations of voter fraud and that the legislature itself will use its power to appoint electors pledged to vote for Trump, overriding the will of the people.
And, in the midst of all of this, with the death of Justice Ginsburg, Trump is attempting to push through a Supreme Court Justice who may very well cast a vote in a case that will determine the outcome of this election. He is doing that at a time when early voting has already begun and millions of ballots will have already been cast.
In this unprecedented moment what can we as a people do in the struggle to preserve American democracy?
First, it is absolutely imperative that we have, by far, the largest voter turnout in American history and that people vote as early as possible.
As someone who is strongly supporting Joe Biden, let’s be clear: A landslide victory for Biden will make it virtually impossible for Trump to deny the results and is our best means for defending democracy.
Second, with the pandemic and a massive increase in mail in voting, state legislatures must take immediate action now to allow mail in votes to be counted before Election Day – as they come in.
In fact, 32 states allow for the counting or processing of absentee ballots – verifying signatures for example – before Election Day. All states should do the same. The faster all ballots are counted, the less window there is for chaos and conspiracy theories.
Third, the news media needs to prepare the American people to understand there is no longer a single election day and that it is very possible that we may not know the results on November 3rd.
Fourth, social media companies must finally get their act together and stop people from using their tools to spread disinformation and to threaten and harass election officials.
Fifth, in the Congress and in state legislatures hearings must be held as soon as possible to explain to the public how the election day process and the days that follow will be handled. As we count every vote, and prevent voter intimidation everything possible must be done to prevent chaos, disinformation, and even violence.
Lastly, and most importantly, the American people, no matter what their political persuasion, must make it clear that American democracy will not be destroyed. Our country from its inception and through the sacrifices of millions has been a model to the world with regard to representative government. In 1863, in the midst of the terrible Civil War, Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg stated that this government “of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”
That was true then. That is true today. Regardless of what Donald Trump wants the American people will preserve democracy in our country.
Charlestown, MA – Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, Democratic US
Senator from Massachusetts, released her plan to make voting easy and
convenient and secure our elections from threats both foreign and domestic:
Elections are the foundation of our democracy, but in the United
States – the greatest democracy in the world – our government treats voting
like it’s one of the least important things we do. We have around 8,000
election jurisdictions all doing their own thing. They are overstretched,
under-resourced, and their technology is often laughably out of date.
Voting should be easy. But instead, many states make it hard for
people to vote. We have all heard stories about polling places running
out of ballots, computer problems causing delays, ballot designs confusing voters, and
working people from voting. And on top of these administrative issues, racist
and partisan officials often deliberately seek to stop citizens from exercising
the right to vote. States have purged names from the voter rolls, limited
same-day registration, closed polling places
in communities of color, used
voter ID laws to try to disenfranchise
Native Americans, and even placed restrictions and
criminal penalties on efforts to
register new voters.
Our elections should be as secure as Fort Knox. But instead,
they’re less secure than your Amazon account. State and local
officials take their jobs seriously, but they often don’t have the resources to
secure their elections. Even then, it’s hard for local officials to defend
against attacks from foreign governments. In the 2016 election, the Russian
government tried to infiltrate at
state election systems and at least one election equipment company. They
tried to spear-phish more
than 100 local election officials’ email accounts. They even successfully broke into several
voter registration databases.
The harsh truth is that our elections are extremely vulnerable
to attack: Forty-two states use voter registration databases that are more than
a decade old. Laughably, in 2019, some still use Windows
2000 and Windows XP. Twelve
states still use paperless machines, meaning there’s no paper trail to
verify vote counts. Some states don’t require post-election audits.
train election officials to deal with cybersecurity threats. This is a national
security threat, and three years after a hostile foreign power literally
attacked our democracy, we’ve done far too little to address it.
We need a constitutional amendment to guarantee the right to
vote. But the moral necessity of this amendment shouldn’t stop us from acting
now. The federal government already has the power to regulate federal elections,
secure our democracy, and put a stop to racist voter suppression.
Under our Constitution, Congress can regulate the “Times,
Places, and Manner,” of federal elections. This power is so broad that
this provision gives Congress “authority to provide a complete code for
congressional elections.” Congress also has the power to enforce the 14th and
15th Amendments to prevent voting discrimination, and the power of the purse to
grant money to the states to meet federal standards. It’s time to draw on these
constitutional powers to strengthen our democracy.
Enough is enough. It is time to make high-quality voting in the
greatest democracy in the world easy, convenient, and professional. It’s time
to secure our elections from all threats, foreign and domestic. It’s time to
address election security, administration problems, and voter suppression.
Here’s how my plan will work:
Federal elections get state-of-the-art federal machines, federal
ballots, and federal security. Right now some jurisdictions use dated
machines that are easily hackable with no paper trail. Ballot design is all
over the place. No more. The federal government will replace every voting
machine in the country with state-of-the-art equipment and require adoption of
a uniform federal ballot. And we will lock all federal voting technology
systems behind a security firewall like it’s Fort Knox.
Federal standards for federal elections. We have 8,000
election jurisdictions running elections. Problems with resources, malfeasance,
and errors are rampant. No more. We will have federal standards to ensure
everyone can vote, including mandating automatic and same-day registration,
early voting, and vote by mail. My plan will mean no more arbitrary voter
purges. No more registration issues. And no more gerrymandering. We will also
make Election Day a holiday to make it easier for people to get to the polls.
Enforce the law and expand access – through incentives where
possible, and with federal authority where necessary. My plan will give
states cutting-edge voting equipment and election security protocols, all paid
for by the federal government, and states will be required to follow all
federal standards for federal elections. States who also choose to meet these
requirements in their state elections can work through federal-state
partnership agreements to have those elections fully funded by the federal
government, too – and we’ll give them a bonus for achieving high voter turnout
rates. And where racist or corrupt politicians refuse to follow the law, the
federal government will temporarily take over the administration of their
federal elections to guarantee the fundamental right to vote.
Securing Our Elections
Under my plan, federal elections will get state-of-the-art
federal machines, federal ballots, and federal security. The federal
government will replace insecure and outdated systems with hand-marked,
voter-verified paper ballot machines. To prevent
hanging-chads and other confusing ballot designs, we’ll have uniform federal
ballots all across the country that are based on easy-to-use design principles.
The federal government will also provide every polling location with accessible
ballot machines for people with disabilities and conduct research into how to
improve voting security and accessibility for all people, including those with
disabilities and people for whom English isn’t their primary language.
Through a new independent Secure Democracy Administration, which
will replace the Election Assistance Commission and be staffed by civil
servants, the federal government will manage the cybersecurity aspects of
elections and develop additional security procedures for election
administration and the end-to-end handling of ballots. States will implement
these additional security measures, and will receive technical assistance and
training from the Secure Democracy Administration. In addition, states will be
required to conduct risk-limiting audits prior to certifying elections – and
we’ll have independent oversight of those audits.
Establishing Binding Federal Standards for Federal Elections
Our elections are never going to be secure, fair, or workable
with so many jurisdictions each making their own rules — especially when some
officials deliberately manipulate those rules to stop people from voting. Under
my plan, we’ll have a uniform set of federal election standards that achieve four
No more registration problems. My plan will mandate
automatic voter registration and same-day registration for federal elections.
State and federal government agencies will automatically register voters and
transfer that information to state elections officials, and voters can opt-out,
if they choose. Every state will also be required to offer same-day
registration, which acts as a fail-safe for anyone who is mistakenly left off
No more voter purges. Under my plan,
states will be banned from removing voters from the election rolls unless the
voter affirmatively requests to be removed or there is objective evidence of a
legitimate reason to remove them, like death, change of address, or loss of
eligibility to vote. We will also re-enfranchise those who have served their
time and left prison.
No more difficulties voting. We will make
Election Day a national holiday, and all federal elections will have a minimum
of 15 days of early voting, expanded voting hours, the option to vote with a sworn
statement of identity instead of an ID, convenient polling locations, and
voting by mail. And we will pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act and the
Native American Voting Rights Act to shut down a host of festering
No more gerrymandering.Under my plan,
states will be required to use independent redistricting commissions to draw
federal congressional districts to prevent gerrymandering. Both parties should
compete on a level playing field; not in a rigged game designed to suppress the
will of the people.
Enforcing the law and expanding access – through incentives
where possible, and with federal authority where necessary
Our democracy shouldn’t be about keeping people out – it should
strive to bring everyone to the polls. Under my plan, states will receive new
state-of-the-art machines and federal election security, all paid for by the
federal government, and they will also be obligated to comply with the federal
standards for federal elections. But we should make voting easier in all
elections – federal, state, and local. I’m
proposing a federal-state partnership so that states will have a strong
financial incentive to follow these rules in their state and local elections as
well — and to maximize voter turnout.
Here’s how it will work: the federal government will pay the
entirety of a state’s election administration costs, as long as the state meets
federal standards in its state and local elections and works to make voting
more convenient. States will create state implementation plans, describing how
they will adhere to federal law and increase access to voting (e.g. location of
polling places). The Secure Democracy Administration will review state
implementation plans for compliance with federal law, election security protocols,
potentially racially discriminatory impacts, and efforts to make voting more
convenient. States that achieve high percentage voter turnout, including across
racial, gender, and age groups, will be awarded additional bonus payments. All
plans will be finalized well in advance of Election Day, and states will
provide data on their election activities. If a state does not participate in
the federal-state partnership, but a local jurisdiction within the state wishes
to do so, the local jurisdiction can work with the federal government to create
a local implementation plan and it will get access to federal funds to cover
its election administration costs.
States can choose to follow their own rules for their state and
local elections. But if they do, they won’t receive new funding for
administering state elections beyond election security measures, and they will
still have to administer federal elections in accordance with federal law –
including preclearance for any changes that might have a discriminatory impact
under the Voting Rights Advancement Act.
If state or local election officials choose to ignore these
federal rules and instead move to violate them, my plan will give the Secure
Democracy Administration the authority to seek a court order to step in and
guarantee that every voter has access to the polls unless or until the state
shows its intent to fully comply with federal law. The right to vote is a fundamental
right, and we will not let racist and corrupt politicians undermine it or our
Our democracy is too important for it to be under-resourced and
insecure. We need to do everything we can to make sure our elections are
convenient, professional, and secure — and we should be willing to pay for it.
Based on estimates of national
election administration expenses, recentstateefforts to upgrade their election systems, and
assessments of the costs of newmachines and audits, to cover these
costs, we would allocate around $20 billion over ten years, which includes
around $15 billion for election administration and around $5 billion for
election security. This investment can be fully paid for with revenue generated
from the Ultra-Millionaire
Democracy hangs on the idea that whoever gets the most votes
wins. Politicians are supposed to compete over how many voters they can
persuade, not how many they can disqualify or demoralize. And we have a solemn
obligation to secure our elections from those who would try to undermine them.
That’s why the Constitution gives Congress the tools to regulate the administration
of federal elections. It’s time to pick up those tools and use them.
Malcolm Nance, the counterterrorism and intelligence expert seen frequently on MSNBC, was watching the early Midterm Election returns on November 6, 2018, and was frantic. “We are ‘x’ number of days from the end of American democracy,” he thought. “If we lose and Republicans keep control, Trump will be like Saddam Hussein” believing he could wield unbridled power.
“We saved democracy – put collective values together and decided not to let government go unchecked. Before, we were rather reserved about how bad things were – seeing our constitutional republic collapsing before our eyes,” he said, in a return visit to Temple Emanuel of Great Neck, Long Island, December 7.
“The shock to our belief system came from Russia, but not the Russians alone. It had to include others,” said the author of “The Plot to Destroy Democracy.”
His book documents how Putin needed to make Russia – essentially a third world country with atomic bombs – great again by destroying, degrading the #1 country at top, the US. Russia, he noted, is a very poor nation, with a Gross National Product equal to Italy. “The US does more trade with Chile than Russia. Russia is a trailer park with atomic bombs – all they sell is weapons, oil, natural gas.”
Russia is led by Putin, an ex-KGB officer, who, when he left Russian intel service, was collapsing. “Putin became the controller, the enforcer of the Russian Mafia in St. Petersburg.
“What happened to Russia after Communism was unbridled, unabashed, crazy Mafia-like capitalism, out of control for 10 years. Russia sold off tanks, airports, took the money and put it into Western real estate – some to New York City – to launder money.
Putin became a billionaire, but something was missing. When Soviet Russia collapsed, what was the philosophy to replace Communism? Putin realized something fundamental – Russians are extremely conservative – religious – they don’t believe in the family values of the West.
The Russian society had to be built anew and Putin knew to steer it more deeply to the Russian Orthodox Church. As the first director of Russian intel, he rebuilt a church next to KGB headquarters (it had been torture center under Stalin) because he realized if he controlled the Russian Orthodox Church, he could bring the population in line. He started funding rebuilding of Russian orthodox churches. Russians are extremely [socially] conservative, so he introduced policies to cater to homophobes and racists [just as Trump is catering to anti-immigrant fervor].
So in 2010, American Conservatives started saying out loud that Russia was a better example of Christian Conservatism than the West. The National Organization of Families – an extremist group – started holding “Persecution of Christians” conferences in Moscow. “Aggrieved Americans who hated Muslims, would fly to Moscow, meet with people from the Russian Orthodox Church and Russian government, and talk about the persecution of Christians around the world.” By 2015, Franklin Graham, son of Christian evangelist Billy Graham, was flying to Moscow and meeting with Putin.
“Russians understood this was part of America they could work with – they could co-opt. There is a lot of reporting about how Russians and Christian evangelicals in the US have been working together for the last decade.”
Another group, the NRA, was also vulnerable. Enter Maria Butina, who, by all definitions is a spy – a “honeypot,” a trained agent who will have sex to get what they want. She cultivated NRA leaders. In July 2015, she appeared at a FreedomFest Q&A session in Las Vegas featuring Trump and got to pose the first question, to describe his foreign policy and his views on “damaging” economic sanctions against Russia. “I know Putin and I’ll tell you what, we get along with Putin,” Trump said. “I don’t think you’d need the sanctions.”
[The FBI and Mueller are investigating whether the $30 million the NRA spent to elect Trump actually came from Russia.]
“David Duke has an apartment in Moscow. All the senior Alt-Right leaders, who organized the Charlottesville riot, believe Russia is bastion of Christian conservativism, the pinnacle example of how we should behave [in the US].
“Most important; Russia already co-opted virtually ever conservative group in Europe. Because when the Soviet Union fell and rejected Communism and brought themselves into strongman autocratic leadership, European conservative groups – ex-Fascists – were looking for leadership and money.
“The government of Austria is controlled by a political party organized in 1952 by two Austrian SS officers who later rose up in power. They had no chance of ruling in government until last 10 years. The rise of right wing fascist political parties in Europe is part of this story that will scare you – because these are same political groups [as the Nazis].” A warning that resonated profoundly in this audience in the synagogue.
“In Germany, the AFD – Alternative for Deutschland – is anti immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic. They are unabashed in their open racism, in their belief that liberal democracy should be supplanted by conservative groups in the West who will create an axis of autocracies, and make laws so no one has to vote anymore.
“Remember that Hitler was elected with 37% of vote – before Nazi Germany, it was the Weimar Republic. He was elected in a fair and free election, but once in power, he changed the laws.”
That movie, “Judgment at Nuremberg,” Nance said, was about showing that people need to be held accountable. “When I saw the film later as an adult, I understood what the trial was – of the German Supreme Court justices who validated every law justifying rape, murder, sterilization. They justified execution through lethal injection of every mentally ill patient in the country. Then they authorized the mass murder of 6 million Jews, while Hitler’s wars around Europe killed 50 million more.
“The Supreme Court Justices of Nazi Germany were elected, the government was elected. People chose them. Then they changed laws to make everything they did legal in the Nazi German system.
“’Judgment at Nuremberg’ is about how it was amoral to human decency to do what they did. They needed to be held accountable. Even as a young guy, I understood it was wrong to hurt people using the legal system,” said Nance, who noted that he had grown up in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Philadelphia, and had his understanding of the Shoah profoundly changed after visiting Auschwitz.
[One should note at this point that the perversion of law is exactly what the Indian Removal Act, the Dred Scott Decision, and Jim Crow were about. And now, how Republicans in lameduck session, are stripping power from incoming duly-elected Democrats in Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina.]
Putin’s plan is simple: to get rid of democracy you don’t need to have a coup d’etat, you can do it through election that votes democracy out of existence.
Steve Bannon, former advisor to the president, is an adherent to the philosophy of Russian ultra-nationalist Alexander Dugin, dubbed “Putin’s Rasputin” by Breitbart News when it was run by Steve Bannon. Dugin advocates for neo-EuroAsianism, where the poles of power from Washington to the European capitals to the rest of world, should be eliminated, along with West. (See: The Russian ‘philosopher’ who links Putin, Bannon, Turkey: Alexander Dugin)
If figures in Putin’s efforts to shift Turkey’s alliance from NATO to Russia and to ally with Syria and Iran – moves that Michael Flynn, who was a paid lobbyist for Turkey’s Erdogan, was effecting.
“The election of Trump is the end state of what Russia doing in Europe- every major political party in Europe is owned by the United Russia Party that loaned money. The French candidate, Marine le Pen in France, got 50 million Euro loan from Putin. Her job was to break up NATO and the European Union on one day; she spoke about it openly and publicly.
Far right extremism was pushing across Europe. It was only the common sense of the French people in March 2017 [and reports of Russia hacking of social media, as in the 2016 election in the US] that saved European democracy from collapsing. The European Union would have broken up if France withdrew. It was a very near thing. But they got away with putting Trump into office.”
“It is very bad for the US if all our allies start collapsing one by one… If Britain doesn’t get its act together in next 90 days, they can face economic collapse.
“Brexit – the Leave group – are saying ‘Donald Trump will give us unilateral deal.’ The last time that happened was Lend Lease. The Atlantic was on fire, Europe fell under the Nazis. Who talks like that?
“Like Alexander Dugin, Trump uses ‘globalist’ as if a dirty word. We invented globalism when we started shipping all over world. We saved Britain, invaded France. Trump doesn’t understand any of that.
“How critical it is for you to watch what is happening in Europe – it is run by open fascists who come from ex Nazi party, who are close to Putin and also to Trump. This is why Steve Bannon went to Europe, where he said, ‘When they call you a racist, embrace it. Wear it as a badge of honor.’
“What kind of upside down world are we living in? We have to put the lines back in place. If we don’t – and maybe the win in Congress in 2018 is an aberration – if Trump doesn’t get impeached, or if he is impeached but survives and wins 4 more years – we will get a repeat of history.”
Nance, in response to a question, said that the Americans who were involved in the theft of the 2016 election committed treason.
As to whether Republicans would ever abandon Trump, he said that once the evidence is released, if it is so overwhelming, “this nation will end up in a Benedict Arnold moment. It will be so clear that Trump was to win at all cost, to make money and be master of the universe, and because he would control the government, he would be untouchable and still get the Ivanka Spa in the Trump Moscow Tower. It will be so clear, so overwhelming, this eclipses Benedict Arnold. We have a president under the control of a foreign power.”
But will he be impeached? Indicted? Or pardon himself and his entire family?
One possibility: at the point Republicans are convinced that Trump is damaging their brand, possibly even causing the party to disappear into a miasma of fascism, kleptocracy and bankruptcy, the leaders will come to Trump with an offer he can’t refuse: they will suspend prosecution of Don Jr., Ivanka and Jared Kushner, halt impeachment and promise not to prosecute him for the many felonies (campaign finance violations, tax fraud, money laundering, conspiracy with a foreign adversary) if he resigns. That would save the party for Mike Pence, who is in fact the president they wanted all along.
A dialogue between Malcolm Nance, a renowned counter terrorism and intelligence consultant for the US government’s Special Operations, Homeland Security and Intelligence Operations, and 4-star Admiral James Stavridis who was the 16th Supreme Allied Commander at NATO, senior military assistant to the Secretary of the Navy and Secretary of Defense, moderated by Errol Louis, a political anchor at NY1 News, took place at Temple Emanuel of Great Neck, Long Island on March 18, 2018. It proved to be a seminar on foreign policy, with some tough words for the need to defend democracy against a tide of anti-democratic, authoritarian forces both domestic and foreign. “We have to solve this –at the ballot box.”
Here are highlights from the provocative discussion:
Errol Louis: Moderator: Both of you were at the Pentagon on 9/11; Nance was even an eyewitness. With the rise of terrorism, how safe are we?
Malcolm Nance: Since 9/11, we went for a short while in the correct direction in counterterrorism, bringing the world together to confront global threat. Unfortunately the invasion of Iraq in 2003 broke the mechanisms in Mideast that were functioning – poorly, but indigenous – strongman dictators. Once we invaded, we unleashed demons we could not foresee. The ebb and flow of regional solutions all went out the window.
Before, the hardest problem was people trying to solve Palestinian problem. That’s nothing compared to radical Islam. You can negotiate with Palestinians, even Hamas, groups in Iran.
We have a bigger problem: just keeping the democratic norms in the world, not just US. Democracy as an ideology is now under attack, every day.
Admiral James Stavridis: I agree. Go back 100 years – 1918. The world is coming out of World War I, Spanish influenza pandemic sweeping, 40% of world’s population were infected, 20% of those will die. US walking away from Europe, isolating ourselves, rejects the League of Nations, erects enormous tariff barriers – cracked the global economy. You can drop a line from that to the rise of fascism and World War II. That is a dark global picture.
We have mechanisms to deal with many of the challenges but agree [with Nance] that the whole ideology of democracy is wrapped up in great power politics, the rise of two authoritarian figures- Putin [just “re-elected” to a fourth term]. President Xi Jinping isn’t even putting on faux election, he declared himself the new emperor. These authoritarian systems are a challenge to democracies in ways we haven’t dealt with in 100 years.
We have two other concerns: a new pandemic – don’t spend much time thinking – but every 100-200 years of human history, a pandemic rises, despite fact of enormous advances in medicine. We are due for one – ability to manipulate genome can allow dark dark work. [Consider how Trump has cut funding to the CDC, and would likely not step in to stop a new outbreak of Ebola or Zika outside the US.]
Our vulnerability is in cyber. We are utterly dependent on massive cyber systems. We are at great risk – that’s where the two strains – cyber vulnerability and way authoritarian regimes will come after us – those streams are crossing – we have work to do, tools,
So, how safe are we? We have challenges, but I am cautiously optimistic. The question is whether our democracy will put in the right people.
Louis:Pointing to [Trump’s] new direction in foreign policy [and the fact that the State Department is considering removing ‘human rights’ from its mission statement], why is it to our advantage to fight for democracy and human rights and why is this not a form of international charity?
Nance: NATO, after World War II [was devised] to stop wars by creating a grand alliance – to spread that ideology around the world., not just American democracy, but allow others to develop their own form of republic, democratic governorship, whether a constitutional monarchy or a republic like France. That is under attack. Democracy is in retreat. ‘Democracy’ has been removed from mission statement of the State Department.
When we were struck on 9/11, it hurt me deeply – I spent my life in worst parts of world getting back. Now, that threat is from within – people in our country do not believe in democracy; autocracy, as being pushed by [Putin] former director of KGB, is better alternative to liberal democracy and European parliamentary democracy-Iit’s all under attack.
It is not a charity – America doesn’t do this as charity. We invented globalism – in WWII –we literally dropped it out of airplanes; people wanted our products at the end of war. Now people believe our system of economy is fundamentally wrong, NATO should be disbanded, the European Union should go away and every country in Europe should be its own autocracy with Moscow as polar center. There are people in US government who believe that.
Stavridis: Why does democracy work? It’s not simply the value system. There’s a pragmatic element. With democracy, people [who are disaffected, aggrieved] get to change government peacefully – a safety value. That’s why we worry about authoritarianism –eventually [discontentment] will blow, and when that happens [authoritarian regimes] will go in search of monsters abroad, look for scapegoats, combat operations. We ought to be very concerned about authoritarianism.
What do we do about it? What’s our move? A couple of different things can do – continue to rely on a system of alliances – that’s why we should worry about tariff barriers, and walking away from NATO, that take global structures apart. We need to rely on those. We need to get vastly better at strategic communications, explaining our ideas. War of ideas? It’s a marketplace of ideas. We have to compete – democracy, liberty, freedom of speech, education, assembly, racial and gender equality – we execute them imperfectly but they are the right ideas. We have to communicate that in ways that get beyond ‘We have the right answer.’ Lay it out pragmatically: why it works. Because there are forces pushing against it.
Louis: Trump’s statements about NATO alarmed people, [yet] US deployed troops to Poland as part of NATO task force exercises. Is his rhetoric worse than reality?
Stavridis: Candidate Trump said NATO was obsolete and he would consider pulling out altogether. Fortunately, on this subject, he [appears to have] listened to General Mattis, the Defense Secretary; General McMaster, National Security Adviser [so far], Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (oops). But on NATO, I am cautiously optimist he has gotten the message that NATO really works.
Nance: NATO is 28 nations, 52% of world’s GDP, 3 million troops under arms, 24,000 combat aircraft, 800 warships, 50 early warning aircraft – it is the richest, most powerful alliance in human history. US spends $600 billion/year on defense, the Europeans $300 billion. To put that into perspective, Russians spend $80 billion, Chinese $150 billion. We outspend in part because of our European allies – they should spend 2%, and are on track to do so in next 3-5 years. The alliance remains fundamental to US – it is pragmatic value for US to be in alliance.
Where did this idea come into Trump’s head that NATO wasn’t a good value, that US was connected to countries not paying their fair share? In November 2013, Trump went to Russia for the Miss Universe pageant and while he was there, he was brought to a private 2 hour meeting arranged by Aras Agalarov, [a billionaire Russian real estate mogul with ties to Putin] who funded the pageant, in a restaurant owned by Galaroff. [Trump] came out of that meeting spouting the Kremlin party line – anti-NATO, anti-globalization, anti European Union, anti treaties and alliances, believing that Russia is the premiere superpower. The only thing we don’t know is whether he believed it or whether some inducement got him to believe – he said it during campaign. Now he seems to have some change of view. NATO [which Admiral Stavridis once commanded] unilaterally evoked Article 5 after [the US was attacked on] 9/11 – for 10 years they gave their blood and treasure to defense of this nation. This is the single greatest force for good since world War II. Russia wants to do away with NATO – they call us Atlanticist, globalist – their philosopher Aleksandr Gelyevich Dugin [who holds fascist views] convinced Steve Bannon, almost the Goebels of the anti-democratic movement, goes around the world, trains, help foster other countries to believe the Atlantic alliance is the problem in the eastern and western hemisphere.
Stavridis: Why NATO matters: 1) The values we share. We will never see another pool of partners who have these values. It is no coincidence because [the Founding Fathers] got them from Europe, from the Enlightenment. 2) The geographic position of Europe matters – why we need those Cold War bases in Europe – those are forward operating stations in the global war on terror 3) It’s the economy and trade between US and the NATO countries.
Also, when I commanded 150,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan, the nation that lost the most on a per capita basis was Estonia. Number 2 was the Netherlands. The US was number 3. They were with us in that fight because we had been attacked on 9/11. This is an alliance that stands and delivers for us. (applause)
Louis: What does [Trump’s] firing of [Secretary of State Rex] Tillerson mean in the broader sense. Is it deliberate, a competence question, a larger crisis, an administration not executing?
Stavridis: When Secretary Tillerson got the job, I thought it was a good choice –a global businessman, contacts all over the world, quiet, laconic, very serious Texan, tough minded. I thought it an interesting choice, it might turn out well. But Tillerson simply was not a very effective Secretary of State. He couldn’t gain real connectivity in the White House – in a state of constant chaos. How can you be Secretary of State for a president who one minute, says, ‘We will solve Korea with fire and fury like never seen – a preemptive declaration of war –and three months later, be ready to go and cut ‘the deal of the century’ – a defensible policy choices but not for same person. So to be Secretary of State trying to articulating that –the work of Sisyphus, boulder rolling down. As a result, morale in the State Department cratered, applications for foreign service are down 50% in the last 2 years. You don’t get that back –you lose a generation if you can’t fill those slots, let alone, not filling crucial ambassadorships [including South Korea]. This is as bleak a moment for American diplomacy. A chaotic inexperienced White House that sadly doesn’t seem to be getting better in 14 months (feels like 14 yrs).
Nance: It appears diplomacy has shifted over to war fighters. Trump thinks diplomacy is not speaking, thinks diplomacy is a big stick, and if everyone sees us as a big stick nation, there will be no communications. The acting Secretary of State is technically Ivanka Trump –Trump is using Ivanka and Jared as an alternate State Department because Trump doesn’t know what the state department is, what diplomacy is. His way of negotiating is threatening –he sees no value in the institution or maintaining. [He is defunding the State Department, institutes]. But the institutes (nongovernmental) are there to help foster democracy and republicanism within countries. They brought about change in countries that would otherwise become a dictatorship – gone. A generation [of diplomats] is gone. Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams –our first 3 ambassadors – must be spinning in their graves.
Louis:Will the opening of US embassy in Jerusalem bring about a cataclysm?
Nance: It could happen. What’s happening in Mideast – so much change, dynamics. You can even see in how the Israeli-Palestinian problem is pushed off – rise of Iran, Syria, Turks invading northern Syria and setting up against the entirety of Kurds (who we fund), Yemen. Palestine-Israel conflict is the ‘good ol days.’. When the deed is done, and US embassy is moved, Saudis may give head tilt to that. I don’t know if there will be another intifada – the strings were cut after the Iraq invasion.
Stavridis: These kinds of conflicts – religious with a geopolitical overlay – are very dug in, and go on and on. The really bad news is that in middle is our greatest friend and ally in the region, Israel.
What should we do? Four things: stand with Israel – (applause)- the reasons are pragmatic, values, all the same things that make us want to be in NATO, should energize our alliance with Israel – 2) Need to work closely with Sunnis (Saudi Arabia, Gulf States, Egypt, Jordan). The Saudis are giving head nod on the peace plan, drawing closer to Israel, willing to exchange information, intelligence, missile defense, early warning. Why? because both are concerned about Iran (which is Shi’a). We ought to understand the Iranian self-view: we think of them as mid-size power, they think of themselves as inheritors of the Persian Empire which 2000 years ago, dominated the region. That’s what they want to reconstruct. Working with Israel, alliances, better in cyber, insuring missile defense strong, stand with Israel.
Louis:How to address the humanitarian disaster in Syria, knowing Russia is smack in the middle?
Nance: We had the opportunity to crack this nut in 2012 after Assad’s chemical attack. I advocated then to destroy the Syrian air force utterly – that’s the strategic advantage Syria has over the allies. Then you have put Israel in powerful position; limits Iranian involvement (because they won’t have a runway to land), and gives opportunity to show Arab States here is a chance to use ground forces to do humanitarian intervention. Arab League, Egyptians, Jordanians, Saudis have enough forces to be in Damascus in 72 hours out of northern Jordan. But so long as Russia backed and Syria can resist, won’t do it.
Stavridis: We last saw a problem like Syria in the Balkans, 20 years ago: Yugoslavia blew up – forced migrations, 100,000s killed – like Mideast – Catholic Croatians, Orthodox Serbians and Muslim Bosnians – a religious war with geopolitical overtones that was ultimately solved by partition. Yugoslavia was broken apart and created sub-states. That was imperfect but at the end of the day, that is what will happen in Syria – it is broken now, and won’t go back- that’s 3-5 years away.
Why is Iran in Syria? Iran wants a land bridge so it can move missiles and fighters from Tehran to Lebanon because that endangers Israel. That’s why we need to move to international solution that somewhat marginalizes Iranian influence – can do with leverage over Russia – the White House needs to get tough on Russia.
Louis:China. The notion they now have a president for life there, with no mechanism to change leadership – if there are internal problems, if there is a falling out within society or economy or ideology in a bad place, what happens?
Stavridis: The good news is that China will continue to grow at 5%. If they do, the population will stay relatively quiescent. But China’s road gets rough in out years- demographics – an aging population, the imbalance between men and women created by the One-Child policy which led to killing baby girls. We’ve never seen a society as ill balanced. Plus, China’s environment is disaster, requiring billions if not trillions to remediate. The housing market is overheated (reminiscent of 2008 in US). With no democracy, there is no way to relieve the pressure. Xi will have smooth run for awhile, but it gets rough in 5-10 years. That’s when we should worry about Chinese foreign policy that is nationalistic, seeks to find a scapegoat outside, and look for conflict in South China Sea. (See the movie, “The Last Emperor,” about Puyi and read Robert Kaplan’s, Asia’s Cauldron”.)
Louis:What is Putin’s end game?
Nance: Putin has imperial goals – Atlantic Alliance between Washington and European states has since WWII brought economic, cultural influences Russia cannot stand – They believe it has marginalized Russia’s limited economic power. All the good that has come from NATO, the EU single market, the US flow of traffic across Atlantic does no benefit to Moscow. Putin realizes that 75% of Russians live in the European part (75% of land in Asia). He believes Russia should be the pole in which Europe should do trade – EurAsianism. He is ruling more like Czar Nicolas I – religious orthodoxy, nationalism, autocracy (while France was creating fraternity, liberty, equality). Russia is buying every conservative, neoNazi group in Europe – owned, lock stock and barrel by Moscow.
Last march, for the second time in American history, France saved democracy – had Marine Le Pen won, France would have withdrawn from NATO,broken up the European Union and aligned France with Moscow, bringing along everyone to Moscow.
Stavridis: Putin’s end game: H will be the dominant force in Russia until the day he dies, and Russians accept it. This is Russian custom, history, culture. Read literature- Dostevsky, Pushkin – how Russians look at powerful male leaders. Sometimes they get a Peter the Great, the next time Ivan the Terrible; sometimes get Stalin, but then get a Gorbachev – they are willing to roll the dice. But the dice have landed on Putin, he will not give up power. We have to deal with this operative. I met Putin a couple of times. Bush Jr. met Putin and was completely taken –he said, ‘I looked into his eyes and saw his soul. We can work with Putin.’ McCain, a true war hero, met with Putin and said, ‘I saw 3 letters: K-G-B.’ I think McCain got that one right – and that’s what we will deal with.”
Is climate change a national security issue?
Stavridis: Climate change is a significant national security threat. Because of global warming, ice is melting in the Arctic, opening up shipping lanes and hydrocarbons, creating a great power competition – on one side is Russia, on the other side US, Canada, Iceland, Norway – they are all NATO; 2) Rising sea levels gradually affect our ports, our ability to operate in major naval bases and ports 3) Global warming will impact our ability to operate globally because of cost – we will have to mediate against environmental concerns, which will put downward pressure on defense budgets 4) What should worry us most is that as oceans heat up, photosynthesis is diminished affecting oxygen in the atmosphere. Vice President Gore called the Amazon the lungs of the earth; Nope, 70% of oxygen comes from photosynthesis in oceans, and we are abusing them. These are major national security concerns.
What if in the next few months Trump abrogates the Iran Nuclear Treaty?
Stavridis: I expect Trump to abrogate the Iran Nuclear Treaty. 1) That will have chilling effect on negotiations with North Korea – they are unlikely to enter into grand bargain having just witnessed the abrogation of the Iran treaty. 2) Iranians will almost immediately restart their nuclear program – they are probably in primed position to do so. 3) The treaty is not perfect but ending it will put Israel at greater risk because of re-energization of the Iranian nuclear program 4) Allies will be furious, it will put enormous strains on the NATO alliance, and probably not lead to European allies walking away, so US will become even more of an outlier. I wasn’t a fan initially – it isn’t a good/bad deal, it is a done deal, the best we could have at this point.
Nance: I spoke with a senior briefer at CIA who briefed Obama on the details that convinced Obama to sign the Iran Nuclear Treaty: The way the agency assessed, Iran was 6-12 months away from developing an atomic bomb, but with the treaty, Iran gave up all components, 90% of its enriched nuclear material and was pushed back 15 years We do not want a war with Iran. Why would we put ourselves in a position to give Iran the ability to have a nuclear weapon? There is no limit to the mischief that would create. And if [unleashed], Iran would go straight to North Korea with $ millions to buy a nuclear weapon.
How to solve the humanitarian disaster that is Syria?
Stavridis: A combination of defense, diplomacy, development – hard and soft power. [This was shown to work in Colombia, after a 60-year insurgency that destroyed the fabric of the country; and the Balkans.] You don’t have to choose hard or soft power. So often, the long game is combination of all those tools – development, diplomacy and defense when need it – to get balance right, requires leadership. We are very good at launching missiles. We need to get better at launching ideas. We can do both. (Applause)
Nance: That’s smart power. We are a global force for good but have to be global force for diplomacy.
Considering the hollowing out of our diplomatic forces to the benefit of Putin, [possible collusion] in cyberwarfare, why is there reluctance to use the word ‘treason’ in regard to Trump?
Nance: There is a legal definition – Article 3 – to ‘treason.’ You literally have to be at declared war with an enemy and give aid and comfort to enemy. That is rarely invoked – we have sent people to prison for espionage, divulging secrets but the last time anyone was tried for treason was the Rosenbergs. I don’t think that word applies legally – from what we’ve seen. Where the president violated his oath of office, you can use ‘treason’ rhetorically if you feel betrayed, or ‘treachery’. I don’t think will be able to use ‘treason’ in legal sense . this investigation started as national counter intel – a spy hunt – still a hunt for citizens in direct communications with foreign intel officers.
What check is there on this president who many think is a madman, is the military prepared to step in and save democracy?
Stavridis: ‘I solemnly swear to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic – no expiration. The military isn’t going to step in and solve this. We have to solve this –at the ballot box. In 1840, Alexis de Toqueville wrote about this strange new phenomenon of democracy. He was largely laudatory, but the punch line: ‘the tragedy of democracy is that in the end you elect the government you deserve.’ We need to own this problem. No one will solve it for us. We need to get out in November, and again two years later, and we can solve this problem.
Nance: We have entered the greatest period of political activism – I believe it will even eclipse the Vietnam era – 1968. But since World War II, we have gotten fat and lazy and enjoy fruits of democracy.
We have guardrails – you have 246 days to solve part of this problem – but to do that you have to bring yourself and everyone who has not voted in last election.
The military is not designed for coup d’etat. We would really be a third world banana republic. But we can stop stupid – unlawful orders.
Emperor Xi. China building pipelines through Africa into the Stans, helping China, become #1 in world, developing 5G. How will that affect us?
Stavridis: China historically has not had global ambition, but 16 months ago, President Xi gave a “coming out speech” at Davos for China in the 21st century: One belt, one road philosophy – using economic power to further the interests of China. China just built its first overseas military base, at the Horn of Africa. China is on the move. When historians 300 years from how write about the 21st century, how that story comes out will be US and China and the rise of India. We need to be mindful of China, align with India, hold close our global allies, help develop this hemisphere to the south of US. That ought to be our strategy. And China should be top of the list to watch.
Nance: If this administration would understand strategy: China is brilliant. Go to sub-Saharan Africa –that used to be the land of the Land Rover, then Toyota, now you see Chinese Long March and Running Deer pick ups – they are $2000-$5000 but are everywhere. China is colonizing the sub-Sahara economically– buying whole sub-sections of countries to ship food to China. If China develops 5G cell telephone networks before the US gets it into Manhattan, China can export worldwide and own global communications. China is building wind plants, is now the world’s largest producer of solar panels (an industry we used to own). Without a strategy, where you think about where we are, where we will go and put together government resources to get there, we are dead in water. And that requires diplomats.
To what do you attribute Iran’s vitriolic hatred for Israel?
Nance: Iranians love America –they are held down by an authoritarian regime using Islamic fundamentalism which the bottom 20% believe, not the people who used to run the country or could be, not the youth who all want what all in the Mideast want – a 2018 Toyota Corolla – they want trade, to be involved with world. Hatred for Israel is a schtick. They don’t really care – they care about religion, family and to be left alone to do what they want. If they see a threat to Al Aksa mosque, they will respond. Palestinians smartest arabs in mide, most educated – everywhere but Palestine – if I were them, would work out public-private partnership to rebuild Palestine as moderate state, so don’t get Islamic cultism of ISIS. If that happens, will be zombie scene, walk into guns. Hopefully Saudi Arabia will focus away from ‘Death to Israel.’
What is impact of Erdogan of Turkey turning his back on western values toward Islamic fundamentalism?
Stavridis: President Erdogan, an authoritarian, is consolidating power rapidly, the most accelerated of all the authoritarian leaders in having taken his nation from functioning secular democracy to one man rule in 5 years. Extraordinary. The bad news is that Turkey is vital to Europe, to US. We need a stable western-looking Turkey – now drifting out of our orbit. We should pay attention, show respect, send high level missions, but behind closed doors, convince Erdogan the trajectory he is on will isolate his nation,. He will never have cozy relationship with Russia or Iran – that won’t work for Turkey. Turkey understands that at a fundamental level. We need to work with Europeans to exert pull on Turkey also. Turkey is more than a bridge (between Asia and Europe), it is a center of power – its population will exceed Russia’s. Turkey is on the move. We need to keep them in our orbit.
The intel community wanted the $120 million appropriated by Congress to fend off cyberattacks on our electoral system. Homeland security issued an alert that Russians already in our computers that run powerplants, and now could turn off electricity. What do we do about that?
Stavridis: We need to reveal more about what we know, to underpin the argument for retaliation –so we can be more aggressive in how we retaliate. We need better private-public cooperation. Government can’t solve this by itself – all our electric grids are intertwined. We have got to get government agencies working together on cyber – agriculture, interior – nobody is focused on cybersecurity.
Considering the rise of authoritarians, what happens If in the next 3 months, Trump fires Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, and a new one fires Mueller. Will Trump be impeached?
Nance: Trump won’t be impeached before November. But we have guardrails. John Dean said that the day after Nixon fired Watergate investigators, the rest were still at work, he just fired the leadership. If Trump fires [Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein] (and [Special Counsel Robert] Muller), he would have sealed his doom about obstruction of justice and the investigation will continue
Stavridis: I believe Congress, including enough Republicans, would respond – not impeach, but there would be a [Constitutional] crisis and the guardrails would kick in.
In the present nuclear environment, is the doctrine of mutually assured destruction still relevant?
In only one respect, Donald Trump may well be right: there is great potential for 2016 to be a stolen election – but in his favor.
To the extent the election is stolen or rigged, this is how: voter suppression (outright intimidating voters at the polls as well as depressing turnout through a disinformation campaign), election fraud, hacking of election results, and intimidation at the polls. While in-person voter fraud is a phantom boogeyman, these are more likely and more lethal to a fair election.
“I would like to promise and pledge to all of my voters and supporters and to all of the people of the United States that I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election, if I win,” Trump told supporters in Ohio in his first comments since the final debate, when he said he would withhold acceptance of election results, thereby threatening a peaceful transition of power. “I’ll keep you in suspense.”
Revving up his minions with charges of a “stolen election,” Trump has urged his most rabid supporters to racially profile people coming to the polls. And in this election, more states have open-carry, so one could conceivably imagine a couple of thugs standing with an assault rifle at the door. This makes the US look and feel more like a Banana Republic than the “beacon of democracy” we hold this nation to be. This is actually a violation of the consent decree imposed on the Republican National Committee stemming from voter intimidation tactics that resulted in Republican Tom Kean defeating Democrat Jim Florio for New Jersey Governor, but should also be a crime.
And afterwards, many of his minions, so convinced by Trump that the election would be stolen and that Hillary Clinton is the most corrupt person ever to seek the presidency and a danger to national security and the nation’s existence, are ready to mount violent revolution.
Can you imagine this is America? Former one-term Illinois Congressman Joe Walsh tweeting that if Trump loses on Nov. 8th, he will grab his musket on Nov. 9th? That you have schools closing or moving their students away from polling areas fearing violence?
Key to this strategy is disinformation – lying, misrepresenting policies – and anything that reinforces the image created over decades by right-wingers that Clinton is dishonest and untrustworthy. In this, FBI James Comey went beyond the pale in resurrecting the email controversy from the unrelated investigation into Congressman Anthony Weiner’s sexting. Trump is having a field day, conflating the vague suggestions of what, exactly? with a breach of national security.
Young voters who tend to move around a lot, rent and not own a home, and not register at a new location and college kids who registered during high school and then again at their campus – are intimidated not to vote because of intentional confusion over their right to vote. Students are also threatened with losing state aid, that they will be found in violation for failing to get a new drivers’ license, registration and insurance, etc. Republican operatives literally challenged Bard and Vassar students in upstate New York as they attempted to vote in 2009 and 2010.
Here’s another source of intimidation: actual extortion to scare off Clinton votes. The threat of armed insurrection if Clinton wins is as if to say, if you don’t want a revolution on your hands, you will not vote for Clinton.
And Republicans are already (even before election day!) threatening nonstop investigations leading toward impeachment if Hillary is elected, which also means a continued policy of obstruction and gridlock, as if to suggest, “We dare you to vote for Clinton.” Will voters actually vote for Trump thinking it as a means of relief? What a mistake, since right-wing Republican extremists would have a clear path to overturn every progressive policy put into place since before Theodore Roosevelt.
This will be the first Presidential Election since the rightwing Majority on the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013, unleashing a hoard of regulations in states and localities explicitly (unabashedly in some cases like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin and North Carolina) designed to suppress, obstruct, depress and disenfranchise voters who tend to vote for Democrats.
The pretext for this wave of regulations was the phantom bogey-man of Voter Fraud. While in-person voter fraud is rare (according to a Washington Post study, just 31 instances in 1 billion ballots cast from 2000 to 2014), those who argue for the dire need to “preserve the sanctity of the ballot,” can point to problems with the voting rolls. Some estimates put the number of dead people still registered as 2 million. Indeed, there may be irregularities with as many as 24 million registrations – the occasional Mickey Mouse among them – but that doesn’t mean Mickey Mouse is voting. (What it does mean is that incredibly low turnout number – 60% for a Presidential election – may be artificial.)
There is no evidence that zombies are voting. No truth to the myth that black people are being bused in from other states to vote eight or nine times in inner cities as the hysterical former “America’s Mayor” Rudy Giuliani accused, or that illegal immigrants are registering, let alone actually casting a ballot, as Donald Trump has charged.
Some 2.9 million are registered in more than one location – but how many people are going to risk five years in jail to vote twice?
However, this is definitely a weakness in the system because, as of now, no one checks. So you can very possibly have someone still registered where they grew up and registered in their new location, voting in person and by absentee.
The absentee ballot is a significant weakness in the integrity of the voting system, but interestingly, none of the Republican-lead voter ID laws and other restrictions would address the problem of in-person voter fraud. So you have to question why that would be, if it is so, so terribly important to Republicans to protect “the integrity of the ballot.”
Still, using “in-person voter fraud” as a pretext, Republican-dominated legislatures have unleashed a whole series of regulations designed to suppress voting –imposing new voter ID requirements and making it difficult for some demographic groups to obtain necessary ID (gun permit is OK, college ID not OK), literally making it hard to reach offices to obtain the ID, limiting hours, and denying applications even after providing ample documentation, and ultimately not processing registrations in a timely fashion (as many as 100,000 in Georgia); shutting down polling places or not having an adequate number of voting machines on hand, so that people are forced to wait hours on line (as in Arizona); reducing the number of early voting days, which hurts young parents and wage earners (as in North Carolina).
These tactics disproportionately hurt women (whose names change frequently over the course of their life), young people who move around a lot and rent instead of owning a home, old people who don’t drive or have their original birth certificate, minorities, poor people, homeless people, hourly wage people who are disadvantaged when voter registration places and polling sites and hours are made hard to reach – voters who are deemed more likely to vote for Democrats.
It starts with gerrymandering districts – cracking and packing districts, drawn into contorted Rorschach shapes, to dilute the voting power of a targeted group – so that the candidate gets to choose voters rather than voters choosing their representative. And with Big Data-mining technology that have become available since 2010 – when Republicans made a concerted strategy to take over State houses in advance of redistricting– they are able to gerrymander districts with extraordinary precision never before known. That’s the election rigging that is most profound.
North Carolina State Representative David R. Lewis, chairman of the redistricting committee, openly admitted, “I think electing Republicans is better than electing Democrats. So I drew this map in a way to help foster what I think is better for the country.”
Then there are other tactics, which are chalked up as if a game rather than a criminal violation of Equal Protection under the Constitution: destroying voter registrations, sending out notices of wrong election dates, times and places or threatening that anyone with outstanding parking ticket will be arrested for attempting to vote. Also, purging voting lists based on the similarity of names to felons or people registered in another district or some other bogus excuse (Ohio purged 144,000 voters from in its three biggest, Democratic-leaning counties – those containing the cities of Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati), without giving the voter a chance to protest. (See New York Times, Critics See Efforts by Counties and Towns to Purge Minority Voters From Rolls.)
Indeed, some states – where there is a high minority population – refuse to reinstate voting rights to people who have served prison sentences, and because of the systemic racism in arrests and incarceration, some 6 million African-Americans are permanently disenfranchised.
Hacking? If Russian-agent hackers could penetrate state voter databases – let alone the NSA, Office of Personnel Management, Colin Powell and the DNC – there is no reason why they couldn’t invade individual precinct tallies, or even impact where the local district totals are tabulated at the state level.
The argument that a national election can’t be hacked because it is too decentralized at the state and county level is not entirely true, because a president isn’t elected by a cumulative popular vote, but by electoral votes – it would only take manipulating results in key counties in key battleground states to swing the election, and if the election is tight in those places, no one would be the wiser. Indeed, experts have shown how easy it is to hack voting machines – going back to the 2000 election – and it is suspected that the 2004 Bush v Kerry election was stolen by shifting the tallies in Ohio. (Walden O’Dell, CEO of the Diebold voting machine company, had promised, ”I am committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president. Early voters in Florida have already complained they saw their votes switched, evoking the 2000 election.)
Some 14 states vote on machines that do not even provide a paper trail so cannot be audited, and in 43 states voting machines – purchased with federal funds after the Help Americans Vote Act (HAVA), itself a reaction to the disastrous 2000 election debacle – are more than 10 years old. One of them is Pennsylvania, a state that could prove pivotal this election, where Trump has centered his “stolen election” meme and is recruiting poll watchers into minority districts. (“You know what I mean.”)
All of this means that Hillary Clinton and the Democratic candidates need overwhelming, uncontestable majorities to make sure there cannot be the subtle irregularities.
Some polls are indicating just such a win, but even so, Trump acolytes are threatening revolution because they believe the polls are rigged and the election will be stolen.
Trump has fed into this, declaring that if he loses, it means that the election was stolen from him is strategic: In the first place, this is a guy whose entire life revolves around him being a “winner” – even failures (like multiple bankruptcies) are to him successes (since he manages to shift harm to others and reap benefits). Also, it sets him up as a martyr (he’s already compared himself to Jesus), to lead this phantom “movement” (“like nothing this nation has seen before,” he claims), in order to bolster his newest business/narcissistic (Trump TV) media enterprise. (He is likely the first candidate in history to make a profit on a campaign, with his campaign “expenses” being revenue to the Trump Organization.)
But there is strategy, as well: Trump’s ploy in charging the system is rigged and inviting scorn saying he would not necessarily accept the results, thereby threatening a bedrock tradition preserving American democracy, the peaceful transition of power, is aimed at getting Democrats to insist the election cannot be rigged, and cower Hillary Clinton and Democrats from contesting elections that have in fact been manipulated, as in Florida 2000. He’s already planted seeds that Ruth Bader Ginsberg should recuse herself if a Bush v Gore redux comes to the Supreme Court, which would give Republicans a 4-3 majority to anoint Trump.
But elections can be stolen and have been stolen. Florida 2000 provided a manual for how it is done. (Just watch the movie, “Recount,” to see the GOP stole Florida in 2000, with complicity of Governor Jeb Bush, Secretary of State Katherine Harris, and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Truly chilling.)
And Trump, by challenging the accuracy of polls that predict Clinton the winner, is aimed to disguise an actual election rigging and voter suppression, so that Trump can emerge the winner despite polls that predict otherwise. Trump will simply say “I told you so.”
All of this should not discourage people from voting. On the contrary, people should be more determined than ever to exercise their right to vote, and a big margin is more important than ever to counteract a rigged election. That’s what happened in 2008 with Barack Obama’s election.
See next: 2016 Presidential Election Points to Needed Reform