Trump’s election obsession shreds a flawed democracy

January 11, 2021

On Jan. 6 a mob of fascist white nationalist groups, egged on by Donald Trump, stormed the U.S. Capitol building to stop the normally perfunctory counting of electoral votes submitted by the states and to certify Joe Biden’s victory. In the mix of the more showy insurrectionist coup plotters were well-armed, more disciplined types whose arsenal included pipe bombs, Molotov cocktails and zip-tie handcuffs likely for use on Representatives and Senators. The many right-wing groups that came–Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, QAnon, Boogaloo Bois and more–were transparent about their insurrection plans on the Internet as they heeded Trump’s call to “be there” on Jan. 6 when he told them, “You’ll never take back our country with weakness.” Many were identified as part of the 2017 racist, anti-Semitic, white power rally in Charlottesville. Some participated in the April dress rehearsal in Michigan where armed militia stormed the state capitol building and Boogaloo Bois were tied to a plot to kidnap and even kill Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

COUP PLOTTERS GIVEN FREE REIN

These thugs easily overwhelmed the Capitol Police, one of whom was bludgeoned to death with a fire extinguisher. Three insurrectionists died from medical conditions (one of them was reportedly trampled), while one QAnon fanatic, who breached the inner chamber, was shot and killed, as the Representatives and Senators evacuated and cowered in a safe room or offices with desks as barricades. The Pentagon was at first hesitant to involve the National Guard for fear of being seen as being politicized. The Trump security apparatus had been ordered to downplay the threat of white supremacist terrorism. The coup plotters got free rein in the Capitol, many openly giving their name, even livestreaming their presence on the Internet and taking selfies with police.

Immediately evident was the blatant contrast to the treatment of Black demonstrators. The overwhelmingly peaceful masses who came out in record numbers to support Black Lives Matter (BLM) in the wake of the police murder of George Floyd, everywhere were met with huge phalanxes of militarized, and often violent, police as well actual military presence in D.C. The Capitol siege shocked the members of Congress and the world used to an idealized projection of the U.S. as a stable democracy with a consistently peaceful transfer of power. Losing this veneer of democracy, business-oriented, persistent Trump enablers like the National Association of Manufacturers and The Wall Street Journal now urged Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump and preserve democracy. Social media giants like Twitter and Facebook, which rake in huge advertising fees by encouraging groups that are echo chambers of lies and conspiracy theories, called out Trump for continuing to incite violence and removed his access. 

Trump’s big lie that he lost because of election fraud in areas with heavy Black populations like Milwaukee, Detroit, Philadelphia, and Atlanta is part of a vicious racism that plays to many of Trump’s white supremacist minions. Allegations of fraud in over 60 mostly frivolous lawsuits brought by Trump attorneys were dismissed for lack of evidence by the courts, often with Trump-appointed judges. With daily COVID-19 deaths reaching new peaks each day, a botched delivery of the new vaccines to actual humans, and an economic decline leaving millions more without resources to live, Trump’s singular concern was overturning the election and actively soliciting election fraud. In Georgia, where the vote has been tallied now three times to the same result, Trump got caught on tape threatening and cajoling Secretary of Brad Raffensperger to “recalculate” Georgia’s votes to give him one more vote than the winner, Joe Biden. Raffensperger, who was a Trump Republican, has been subject to repeated threats from Trump’s fascist base in Georgia. At a prophetic news conference on Dec. 1, Gabriel Sterling, who runs Georgia’s voting system, said “Stop inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence. Someone’s going to get hurt, someone’s going to get shot, someone’s going to get killed.”

TRUMP’S ELECTION OBSESSION

Any who don’t totally buy into Trump’s self-absorbed fantasy about overturning the election immediately become enemies to be destroyed by him and his supporters. When, after the assault on the Capitol, Trump’s loyal follower Senator Lindsey Graham said he had enough and would no longer oppose Biden’s victory, he was hounded as a traitor by a mob at the airport. At the rally where Trump incited the Capitol riot, he also put the squeeze on his loyal Vice President Mike Pence, telling him to do what he could not do: namely, as the presiding official at the electoral vote count, simply declare void votes from some states Biden won and make Trump the winner. The electoral vote count did restart after the Capitol was cleared. Though some Senators dropped their challenges, not Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, who had cheered on the coup plotters with a raised fist, even as he continued to try to achieve the same result from from the inside. Hawley, a handful of other Republican Senators and two thirds of the House Republicans stuck with the fascist ploy to overturn the election, dragging out the certification of Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory to the wee hours of the next day, when Pence declared Biden the winner.

With only a little over a week left before Biden’s inauguration, there are new threats from Trump’s white racist followers to not let it happen. More and more officials in the administration are quitting each day over Trump’s inciting the rioters, including now two cabinet members. The dread and angst over what Trump might do in the few days left in this interregnum is a Constitutional crisis. There is a push for a rushed second impeachment and trial as well as ongoing discussions with military leaders about how to keep Trump’s power to start a war, especially a nuclear war, in check.

If the U.S. democracy lives to see another day, it was because of the unprecedented turnout of Black voters, reflecting the mass movement on the streets that continues to put that democracy on trial (see “Black-led revolt ensures defeat of Trump’s racist campaign”). Results in Georgia were especially a surprise, not only flipping the state for Biden in the Presidential election but then flipping both of its Senate seats to Democrats in Jan. 5 runoff elections. This gave the incoming Biden administration a chance to not be totally stonewalled by also flipping control of the Senate agenda to the Democrats. Georgia elected its first Black Senator, Ralph Warnock, a pastor from Atlanta.

BLACK MASSES AS VANGUARD

The Georgia Senate runoff elections became a national issue over the future of the country, with a massive call-in to Georgia voters from around the country. Again Black voters came out in astonishing numbers in a state where the legacy of the white power structure securing their power through suppression of the Black vote continues. Indeed, in the lead-up to the Jan. 5 run-offs, Raffensperger refused to meet, though directed to do so by a judge, with Black Voters Matter, Rainbow PUSH and other voting rights groups to restore 198,000 Georgians wrongfully purged from the voter rolls.

As Stacy Abrams put it, Raffensperger, though he stood up for the count of actual votes, is no hero. Abrams launched Fair Fight to protect Black voting rights after losing a close election for Governor in 2018 when there was massive suppression of the Black vote. Abrams greatly expanded the Black voter base through registration drives in the run-up to the November presidential election and registered thousands more between November and the Jan. 5 run-offs.

Stacey Abrams’ fair elections group is the face of a social movement in Georgia where the right to vote has always been deeply intertwined with the Black struggle for self-determination. For Abrams BLM or women’s right to choose comes down to, “Who has a right to be treated as a human in America?” Biden’s new appeal for unity through politics and attempt to revive U.S. democracy will buy us little time in this period pushing humanity to its limits with capitalism’s multiple total crises–economic, environmental, political. The political arena, where the insurrection caucus in the House and leaders like Hawley and Cruz will keep fascism in the wings, brought us to the present brush with a fascistic total consolidation of power. Our times can appreciate a new kind of unity in Marx’s humanism, his idea of freedom where self-determination and democracy pervade everyday life activity in the multiple ongoing struggles to be recognized as whole human beings.

–Ron Kelch
January 10, 2021

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