Our Democracy Hangs by a Thin Thread

Discussion in 'Politics' started by piezoe, Nov 19, 2020.

  1. piezoe


    From todays Bloomberg. An opinion by Law Proffessor Noah Feldman.

    Noah Feldman is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist and host of the podcast “Deep Background.” He is a professor of law at Harvard University and was a clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter. His books include “The Three Lives of James Madison: Genius, Partisan, President.”

    This week’s Michigan election theft scare lasted just about three hours — unless you were checking your screen in real time, it may have passed you by. Yet, brief as the episode was, when historians look back on this strange interregnum in which President Donald Trump has not acknowledged President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, they could do worse than to dig deep into the sorry affair. It carries important lessons about how delicate our system of electoral transitions is, and also about the social forces that preserve the system despite its sometimes precarious-seeming character.

    The historians will have to start with the weird institution at the heart of the events: the Wayne County Board of Canvassers. On Tuesday, two Republican election officials announced they would not agree to certify the county’s results before reversing themselves after a national outcry. Wednesday night, they attempted to reverse their reversal, but officials said it was too late.

    The board has four members, two Democrats and two Republicans. They are technically appointed by the County Board of Commissioners to serve four-year terms. But in effect, they are political patronage appointees chosen by the state political parties. The two-and-two structure is a matter of courtesy. Wayne County, which includes Detroit, is overwhelmingly Democratic. All 83 boards of canvassers in Michigan have the same two-and-two structure.

    The board’s most important job is to certify the county’s election results. Ordinarily, this is a simple matter; so simple, in fact, that it wouldn’t be unfair to refer to the members of the canvassing board as functionaries. They are part of the vast apparatus of overwhelmingly reliable and conscientious election officials all across the U.S. — the same officials who presided over a remarkably clean electoral process in 2020.

    If the two Republicans on the board had stuck to their vote not to certify the results, the consequences could have been significant. In the heavily African-American county, Biden won by more than 323,000 votes. Biden won Michigan by some 146,000 votes. If Wayne County was not counted in the total, the Michigan election results would have been unclear.

    That might have enabled Republican legislators in Michigan to propose sending a slate of Trump electors to the Electoral College. Under federal law, states must certify election results unless the votes have not pointed to a winner. Losing Michigan wouldn’t have tipped the election. But successfully overturning the result in one state would have signaled to Trump supporters elsewhere that they might get away with the same maneuver.

    Trump was certainly excited by the two Republicans’ initial refusal, and he tweeted approvingly almost as soon as the news came out. A future historian writing about the episode could credibly say that a couple of political hacks in Michigan attempted to fire the first shot in what might have become a coup d’état against Biden — one that Trump would presumably have encouraged.

    The first lesson is that, implausible as it may seem, there were at least a few Republican officials at the state level who were prepared to take action to overthrow the election results. We shouldn’t forget that. Nor should we allow their speedy reversal to make us too sanguine.

    We don’t know why the two Republican officials reversed themselves. One of them, Monica Palmer, did her cause no favors when she proposed excluding the votes from mostly Black Detroit while proposing to certify votes from mostly White neighborhoods. The criticism was immediate, intense and deserved. Did that public pressure lead the two Republicans to change their minds? Who knows. All we can say is that it didn’t come from Trump or the White House — or from Senator Lindsey Graham, who also seems to have supported the decision and perhaps even inspired it. Perhaps the pressure came from state Republicans who didn’t want to have to deal with the mess. They certainly seem uninterested, now, in letting Palmer and the other Republican, William Hartmann, change their votes.

    Regardless of how it happened, the episode teaches us that most Republicans in a closely contested swing state were not prepared, in the end, to break with democratic tradition and seek to replace the people’s votes with partisan usurpation. The principles of electoral fairness were too strong — and Michigan Republicans’ self-interest in not overtly breaking those principles prevailed.

    This outcome indicates that the political virtue necessary to sustain democracy isn’t entirely dead, at least not among Michigan Republicans. The willingness to do the right thing under the law, even when the president of United States is encouraging the contrary, is an irreducible necessity of a functioning democracy.

    The republic survived another day, albeit only after facing a nontrivial challenge to its basic principles. Both lessons — of precariousness and robustness — deserve to be remembered and studied into the future.

    (Adds that late on Wednesday, the two Wayne County Republicans attempted to reverse their votes again to block certification of the election results.)
  2. Tsing Tao

    Tsing Tao

    You folks will never understand the problem, it seems. You'll just continue to point fingers and assign blame, oblivious that you are a big part of the issue.
    WeToddDid2 and smallfil like this.
  3. elderado


    Honestly, that is just a completely stoopid argument.

    The hallmark of democracy is free and fair elections.

    When it is not crystal clear that an election has been free and fair, yes, democracy is hanging by a thin thread.

    There are far too many irregularities in the 11/2020 election process to just "suck it up, sunshine."

    What a damn hypocrite.
  4. UsualName


    Make no mistake, legally, Trump is trying to overtake a constitutional government. There is no two sides/whataboutism to this.

    wrbtrader and Cuddles like this.
  5. smallfil


    Democrats moved for mass mailing of ballots which is the shit storm of their creation. They know there will be chaos and open the floodgates to mass election fraud yet, they went ahead with it just the same. Had they not pulled that stunt, whoever won on election night would have been certified and we would not have these multiple lawsuits filed to settle it in court. You ET trolls are dumb idiots if you cannot figure out that you guys caused the problem?
  6. Tsing Tao

    Tsing Tao

    I don't entirely disagree with this prediction OR the assessment.

    But Piezoe's comment was a bit more overarching than just Trump, and if you want to understand how we got here (which - were I on the left - I would absolutely want to do) then you need to consider what part you and your philosophy has played in getting us to this point. Additionally, I do not doubt that were we in a reverse situation where Trump squeaked out a win, there would be all sorts of claims against the election from the left - including a resistance movement where Joe would not concede.

    Hell, the last four years have been massive #resist movements and a fight against Trump winning legitimately against Clinton.

    The only way through any of this is an understanding of that - and acceptance of the truth. Or we can continue to put the Republic at risk.
  7. The democracy went out the window when a very large swath of the democratic party refused to accept Trump as the legit winner and president of the United States. Actually the cracks started to appear with Gore v. Bush.
    What we're seeing now is the inevitable push back.
  8. Ricter


    Million bucks to you, from Texas government, if you can show any evidence of voting fraud there.

    Suck it up indeed.
    Bugenhagen and exGOPer like this.
  9. Ricter


    Really? Who's been living in the WH and signing EOs and, most importantly, golfing and resorting on the taxpayer's dollars, this past four years?
    Bugenhagen and Cuddles like this.
  10. UsualName


    There you go with both sides again.
    #10     Nov 19, 2020
    Bugenhagen and Cuddles like this.