By Jessie Seigel/Washington, D.C.
My feelings about November 3rd? Anger and fear. Anger at all that Donald Trump and his minions are doing to steal the election or to take the presidency by force. And anger at the Democratic Party for letting things get to the point where this Republican-sponsored theft and force can be in the offing. As for fear, I fear Trump’s retention of power will be the end of democracy in this country. But I also have fear if Biden wins, as I believe he would in a fair election.
Here in D.C., it has long been a given that our votes for president and for our one non-voting Congressional representative always go to the Democrats. So no one in the national campaigns pays us much mind. Even though I very early delivered my ballot to a D.C. drop box and have contributed in my way to help with races across the country, I still feel sidelined, a helpless, anxious onlooker watching Trump and his cronies openly abuse all the levers of governmental power to rig this election while falsely accusing their opponents of it.
Trump and his henchmen have purged voter rolls, limited the number of polling places, and prevented timely delivery of absentee ballots by the Post Office. In California and God-knows-where-else, they’ve set up fake deposit boxes to steal absentee ballots that have been delivered in person. This rigging could not only hand the presidency to Trump, but prevent votes for Democratic candidates down-ballot from being counted, perhaps affecting the Democrats’ ability to gain a Senate majority and hold the House.
Trump has encouraged organized right-wing armed groups and white supremacist vigilantes who have plotted to kidnap and kill various Democratic leaders. He has incited them to go armed to the polls, in order to create havoc and intimidate voters.
In addition, only a few days ago, Trump’s five Supreme Court hacks decided that absentee ballots failing to arrive by 8 p.m on November 3 can be discounted, regardless of when they were mailed and regardless of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s deliberate mail slowdowns. As if that were not enough, Trump, Mitch McConnell and the Republican-controlled Senate installed a sixth hack on the Supreme Court this week, so that if their disruption and confusion successfully fudge the results, the Court can ensure Trump retains power regardless of whether he actually won.
But what, you may wonder, do I fear if, despite all that is now arrayed against a fair election, Biden manages to win and—hosanna!—brings the Senate and House with him?
There is so much damage to be undone—on COVID19, civil rights, labor rights, immigration, employment, environment and climate change, social services, the reversal of the tax giveaway to the one percent, health insurance and drug prices. That’s not to mention mending our relationships with our allies, and standing up to the dictators of the world. And most important of all to our democracy: reestablishing the rule of law by holding Trump officials accountable for their illegal actions.
Will Biden have the strength to do that? Or will he and the Democrats do what they have done in the past—let the Republicans con them into moving on “for the good of the country,” as they did after Watergate? Compromise with the other side on policy. Let the Republicans persuade them to play the “let’s work together” game, while the Republicans continue the “take no prisoners” strategy they have employed from at least Bill Clinton’s presidency on. Will the Democrats fall for the Republicans’ “non-partisanship” ploy?
Non-partisanship is a crock sold to liberals by conservatives who have, for decades, been as partisan as they come. In partisanship, you stand for something and you fight for it. You might, on some occasions, find common ground with the opposition. But that is not the same as compromise, which cedes ground. To undo all the damage the right wing has done to government programs and to the rule of law, we need a big dose of partisanship by liberals and progressives.
Some have talked of the need for truth and reconciliation. I say: forget reconciliation. I want truth and justice.
Every time there has been an assault on democracy with no real consequences, those who would destroy democracy have learned how to conduct the next assault more effectively. Trump and his Republican Party’s actions are not a sudden anomaly but the culmination of that learning process.
Nixon was pardoned for his Watergate spying and coverup without ever having been charged. Those who went to jail for him served short sentences at country-club prisons. This showed what one could get away with. Many of the voter suppression tactics used this year were previously used at least as early as the 2000 election. And that year, the Supreme Court handed the election to George W. Bush by refusing to allow votes to be recounted in Florida. Three of the current Supreme Court Justices—John Roberts, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett—worked for the Bush team that won that case. Even Trump’s pretensions to dictatorship are not new. George W. Bush’s administration laid the foundation, advancing the notion of unbridled presidential power under their so-called “unitary executive” theory.
If there are no consequences for the assaults on democracy Trump and his cabal have perpetrated, they will be committed again, more effectively yet. The price paid for these attacks on democracy must be a real price. Or we’ll be right back in this situation, and next time, democracy won’t survive. This is not a mere desire for revenge, although I’m sure conservatives will call it that. Rather, as Elizabeth Warren has said, to reestablish the rule of law, we will need an independent task force at the Justice Department to look back at possible criminal conduct in the Trump Administration and prosecute wrongdoers where such evidence is found. Whether that will be possible with Trump’s Supreme Court ready to knock down any such action is a big question. I just hope that if Biden and the Democrats manage to win the presidency and the Congress, they have the fortitude to pursue it. We must make sure that this election has consequences.
Jessie Seigel is a fiction writer, an associate editor at the Potomac Review, a reviewer for The Washington Independent Review of Books, and a dabbler in political cartoons at Daily Kos. She has twice received an Artist’s Fellowship from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities for her work. But, Seigel also had a long career as a government attorney, in which she honed her analytic skills. Of this double career, Seigel would say, “I guess my right and left brains are well balanced.” More on and from Seigel can be found at The Adventurous Writer, https://www.jessieseigel.com.