November 14, 2020
Today Trump’s followers—including the neo-fascist Proud Boys and Marjorie Taylor Greene, a racist QAnon believer newly elected to the House of Representatives from Georgia-- congregated in Washington, D.C., to claim that Trump won the 2020 election. President-Elect Joe Biden’s overwhelming victory, they say, was fake, despite the many administration officials insisting that the election was “the most secure in American history.”
Trump’s motorcade drove through the crowd on his way to play golf. Far from discouraging his followers’ distrust of our democratic system, he is actively encouraging it. His many lawsuits, which are being tossed out or decided against him, seem designed to stoke the narrative that he was cheated. His surrogates are taking to popular outlets to insist that the election was rigged and that Trump, in fact, won. He refuses to concede the election, insisting that there were “illegitimate” ballots that must be discarded, and is stalling the necessary preparations for a transition to the Biden administration.
Former Trump official George Papadopoulos—the man who helped to launch the Russia investigation when he boasted to a foreign ambassador in 2016 that the Russians had “dirt” on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton-- tweeted, “The military is with the president,” suggesting he is looking to a military coup. (In fact, military leaders have been quite clear they swore an oath to the Constitution, and a majority of rank-and-file military personnel appear to have voted for President-Elect Biden.)
Meanwhile, the president appears to have lost whatever interest he might have had in actually governing. As the country reels from the coronavirus surge that has now infected more than 10 million of us, killed more than 244,000, and crippled the economy, he is apparently focused exclusively on the past election. He has not gone to a coronavirus task force meeting in at least five months, rarely reads the daily reports on the virus, and is no longer briefed about the crisis by doctors. He has apparently decided simply to let the conflagration burn. At the same time, he is refusing to let his staffers talk to incoming Biden staff about the pandemic.
“The duty of a president is to protect the national security of the United States, and this is the most prominent disease of mass destruction America’s ever faced, and we have a commander in chief who has run away from the problem and has made it worse,” Jack Chow, a U.S. health official under George W. Bush, told reporters from the Washington Post. “We had an opportunity twice over the past eight months to bring it down to safer levels, and we failed. We are on the verge of losing control of this pandemic.”
And yet, most Republican lawmakers are not willing to challenge Trump in public.
Indeed, in his willingness to abandon governance for his own benefit Trump is simply following the lead of Republican lawmakers like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) who has steadfastly refused to take up bills from the Democratic-led House of Representatives, including a coronavirus relief package to address the coronavirus recession. Instead, McConnell has focused on packing the courts with pro-business judges. Excerpts from a new book by former President Barack Obama, due out next week, reveal McConnell’s response to a plea from then-Vice President Biden to pass a worthwhile bill. McConnell answered: “You must be under the mistaken impression that I care.”
Today’s Republican Party has traveled a long way from the party of Abraham Lincoln.
In the 1850s, the Republican Party rose to stand against a small group of wealthy southern white slaveholders who had taken over the government. Those slaveholders made up only about 1% of the American South. They ran the Democratic Party, but they knew their system of human enslavement was unpopular and that they were in a political minority even in the Democratic Party. It was only a question of time until the majority began to hem in their ownership of other human beings.
So when folks started to urge the government to promote infrastructure in the growing nation, building roads or dredging harbors, for example, these southern leaders worried that if the government began to intervene in the economy, the regulation of slavery would be just around the corner. They pushed back by insisting that the government could do nothing that was not expressly written in the Constitution. Even if the vast majority of the people in the country wanted the government to do something, it could not.
As pressure grew for government to promote economic growth for ordinary Americans, the southern slaveholders worked to cement their power. They courted poor white voters, telling them that any attempt to regulate slavery was an effort to lift Black people over them. From their stronghold in the Senate, southern leaders stopped legislation to develop the country and instead pushed laws that spread slavery into the West. When northerners objected, southern leaders packed the Supreme Court and got it to agree that Congress could not stop the spread of southern slavery even across the entire nation. But while they insisted the federal government could not promote the economy for ordinary Americans, they demanded a sweeping federal slave code to protect slavery in the West.
Their system was best for the nation, they explained. Society was made up of a mass of workers, drudges who weren’t terribly smart, but were strong and loyal. They were the “mudsills” of society, akin to the wood hammered into the ground that supported the grand plantation homes above. Directed by their betters, these mudsills produced capital, which accumulated in the hands of the wealthy. There, it did far more good than if it were distributed among those who had produced it, because society’s leaders used their wealth to innovate and build the economy, doing what was best for the workers, who could not understand their own interests. The nation thrived.
To secure this system, though, it was imperative that the mudsills could not vote. If they could, workers would demand more of the wealth they produced. White southerners had enslaved their laborers, South Carolina Senator James Henry Hammond told his northern colleagues in 1858, but northerners had not, and they foolishly allowed them to vote. “If they knew the tremendous secret, that the ballot-box is stronger than "an army with banners," and could combine, where would you be?” Hammond demanded. “Your society would be reconstructed, your government overthrown, your property divided… by the quiet process of the ballot-box.”
Men like Abraham Lincoln organized to overturn the idea that they were mindless workers, doomed to menial labor for life. In 1859, Lincoln articulated a new vision for the nation, putting ordinary men, rather than elite slaveholders, at the heart of national development.
Lincoln’s “Free Labor” theory held that the nation worked best when the government supported ordinary men rather than a wealthy elite. Ordinary men worked more intelligently and innovated more freely than an elite, and when the government used its power to free up resources for them, they built the economy far more efficiently than the enslaved workers who were hampered by the commands of an out-of-touch plantation owner. Rather than shunning economic development, the government should embrace it, they said, spreading free labor, rather than slavery, across the West.
When Lincoln won the 1860 election, southern leaders refused to accept the results of the election. They left the Union to launch a new nation that rejected the idea of human equality and was instead based on human enslavement.
Left in charge of the government, the new Republican Party rebuilt it according to Lincoln’s vision. To pay the enormous cost of the Civil War, they invented our first national system of taxation, including the income tax. Then, to enable people to pay those taxes, they spread opportunity to ordinary men, giving them western land (that we now recognize belonged to indigenous people), establishing our state universities, and building a railroad to take people across the country. Ultimately, they included Black men in their vision, abolishing slavery, establishing Black citizenship, and guaranteeing Black men the right to vote so they could protect their own interests.
Under the leadership of the Republican Party, Americans were, Lincoln reminded them, resolving “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Dear Heather, Tonight you gave me a history lesson that makes me feel I've never learned anything about the real history of our country. Thank you! I now have two of your books on order -- "Wounded Knee" and "How the South won the Civil War". It bothered me that to create the working class Lincoln's government put an entire people, the Native Americans, into the slavery of dependency and deprivation exchanging the plantations for reservations. If a Civil War won't work this time and there is no land to give away, what is the solution. My thoughts are three-fold. First, that workers, the creators of the wealth, must become shareholders in that wealth by receiving shares in the business they work for and seats on the Boards. Second, the two-party system and "winner-take-all" partisan politics must be reformed with nonpartisan systems doing redistricting, the aisles removed in Congress, and checks and balances restored so that no one have unilateral or autocratic power. Third, the country needs a Well-Being Index to replace or at least be equal to the GNP where every policy and piece of legislation is measured on its benefits to the well-being of the People.
The most appalling thing is that mentalities have hardly seemed to change in over 150 years. We are still seeing those hoarding the wealth manipulating the "mudsills" against their better interests, blinding them with hatred of anyone who might do better, binding them with fear of being "downgraded" and driving them with a myth that replaces history, fact and truth.
Well...! Now they believe that they have sewn up both the Supreme Court and the Senate, thus neutering "à volonté" the Democratic Président and House. They could return the country far into the past through "Government by the Judges" and throw out safeguards for the people built up despite them over the last near century or simply wait, block and watch untill their chance came again to rule totally.
This repetitive, destructive spiral has to stop. Secession is no longer an option for the GOP and is hardly necessary as they esteem that they are succeeding in spreading their control over the whole country and imposing their autocratic rule even without slavery. They have in reality adopted the system which they decried amongst anti-slavery States; Wage slavery. Civil war was tried once and it didn't solve the problem for very long! A country cannot go on for long with a constitutional blockage which prevents the government from promoting and supporting the welfare, rights and obligations of all the people.
I trust that Biden is truly inhabited by the spirit of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Ike Eisenhower, and Barack Obama as he is going to need it in order to break this impasse. This cannot be just a transition! He will need to break the log jam either through the justice system by whatever means...treason, corruption or other crimes... or through non-traditional action as "Commander in Chief of the Nation" as did Teddy Roosevelt in order to break the resolve and rigidity of the owners in the Coal Mine deadlock in 1902. Whichever he chooses he must also act strongly through the BULLY PULPIT. He is going to need such a massive groundswell of public opinion, protest and support that McConnell, Koch Inc. and their army of orcs fear for their very existence in the mid-terms. To achieve this he must to lay out a program for everybody; he has to address the root causes of the support on the ground for the Tea Part etc and, to make it happen, he has to invent new, innovative ways of getting things done...which the current constitution does not specifically prohibit. Here his mettle will be tried, his vision tested and his determination proven. Thankfully he has Kamala Harris by his side.