Watching the depressing and alarming spectacle of 17 Republican state attorneys general joining Texas’s bad faith, frivolous Supreme Court application to overturn the election in favor of Donald Trump, I am reminded that in September 2015, I wrote a post titled “The Dark Truth of John Boehner’s Resignation.”
What was that “dark truth”?
What is important here is not that Republicans object to the limits of their power, but that Republicans apparently cannot accept that such limits even exist.
It sounds crazy, I know, but this represents the true "dark side" of Boehner's resignation: It is another significant step in the Republican Party's shocking withdrawal from our system of democratic governance.
Five years ago, the notion that Republicans were abandoning democracy was considered to be a somewhat important observation, something to be widely shared and discussed. Today? Well, let’s consider a few of the developments since 2015.
- Jan. 2015-Jan. 2017: The Republican Senate engages in an unprecedented embargo on most all federal district and appellate court judges nominated by President Barack Obama.
- 2016: Multiple state and federal Republicans openly admit that voter ID requirements, and similar voter suppression laws, are designed to hurt Democrats and allow specific Republican candidates to win.
- March 2016: After the death of Antonin Scalia, Republicans block President Obama’s power to appoint Merrick Garland, or any Supreme Court nominee.
- September-October 2016: Multiple Republican senators declare that they will not confirm any Supreme Court Justice if Hillary Clinton wins the presidential election.
- September 2016: Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocks any bipartisan effort to disclose and condemn Russian interference in the 2016 election.
- April 2017: Republicans eliminate the Supreme Court filibuster to appoint Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.
- December 2018: After Wisconsin voters chose to replace its Republican governor with a Democratic one, Republican state legislators meet in a lame-duck session to strip existing powers from the Democratic governor and state attorney general, and to limit early voting procedures in an effort to reduce Democratic voting.
- Dec. 21, 2018–Jan. 25, 2019: Trump forces the longest-ever government shutdown because Congress—on a bipartisan basis—refused to fund his pet wall project on the southern border.
- Feb. 15, 2019: After Congress refused to fund Trump’s wall, and his subsequent and unsuccessful extended government shutdown, Trump declares a national emergency and pilfers funds from the military budget to pay for his pet wall project anyway.
- March 14, 2019: Trump threatens violence from his supporters against Democratic voters who do not support him.
- May 30, 2019: Computer hard drives belonging to a deceased Republican operative are turned over by his daughter. They reveal national Republicans’ efforts to use census data to suppress minority and Democratic voting power and representation.
- Sept. 11, 2019: North Carolina’s Republican state legislators tell their Democratic counterparts that the state legislature will not be in session on the 9/11 anniversary, but then secretly meet in a half-empty chamber to override the Democratic governor’s budget veto.
- Jan. 31, 2020: Republican senators vote to block hearing any witnesses or evidence in the impeachment trial of Donald Trump.
- May 1, 2020: Trump tweets support for hundreds of gun-toting militia types who invade the Michigan State House in protest of COVID-19 response measures.
- July 21, 2020: Contrary to hundreds of years of constitutional interpretation and practice, the Trump administration announces that it will not count undocumented immigrants in the decennial census; it’s an effort to reduce the number of House seats for Democratic states and to eliminate millions of federal payments to such states based on population.
- Oct. 5, 2020: In the teeth of a historic pandemic threatening death and injury to millions, the Trump campaign and compliant Republican state legislators embark on an astonishing campaign to make voting more dangerous and difficult. A concise overview is provided by Mother Jones, in “29 Ways Trump and the GOP Are Making It Harder To Vote.”
- Oct. 18, 2020: Days after the FBI foiled a plot by militia men to kidnap and publicly execute Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer over COVID-19 safety orders, Trump incites and encourages a Michigan crowd to engage in further violence against her.
- Oct. 26, 2020: Republicans confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court one week before a presidential election—despite blocking Garland or any nominee by a Democratic president to fill a seat that opened nine months before the 2016 election.
- Nov. 3, 2020: How could the 2020 election ever be summarized in a bullet point? Trump refuses to agree to a peaceful transfer of power. Trump sues unsuccessfully (over and over) to overturn the election he lost. Trump publicly lies about the election, seeks to subvert state election procedures, threatens retribution against other Republicans, and incites violence. And—this is crucial—he does so largely with the complicity of the Republican party.
- Dec. 5, 2020: A month after Joe Biden won the presidential election (by more than 7 million votes), only 27 out of 249 Republican senators and House members will publicly admit that Biden won the election.
- Dec. 8, 2020: The Arizona GOP sends out an appalling tweet—asking if people are “willing to give [their] life” in support of Trump’s efforts to overturn the election.
- Dec. 9, 2020: The Republican majority leader of the Pennsylvania Senate tells a New York Times reporter that she would have signed a Trump letter declaring fraud in the 2020 election because “If I would say to you, ‘I don’t want to do it,’ I’d get my house bombed tonight.”
- Dec. 10, 2020: The Trump administration continues to obstruct the transition to the Biden administration, while over 100 Republican House members and 17 state attorneys general sign onto Texas’ unprecedented and “seditious” lawsuit against four swing states.
Folks, this is insane. It’s an open, ongoing assault on the fundamental tenets of this country, unseen since the run up to the Civil War.
Admittedly, defeating this Republican problem is hard and complex, and viable solutions will take discussions longer than this one post. But allow me to propose we rediscover an essential concept: scandal.
The first and necessary step back requires that our country, our politics, and our media rediscover how to label, report, and resist scandalous behavior. Remember Watergate? Whitewater? Benghazi? None of them compares to this threat to democracy (yes, not even Watergate).
That means reporting this for what it is, and not inviting any co-conspirators on for polite interviews. It means having a panel of historians and civic leaders on, regularly, to discuss the scandal, not a D-list of political hacks. It means consistent front page reporting on this crisis. It means not reporting this as “horse race” politics. And it means that Democratic leadership has to be fighting against this, openly and all the time.
Shutting this down requires that, as a basic first step, we all begin to treat this as the five-alarm fire scandal that it is.
I once called the Republicans’ hunger for power a “dark truth.” Five years later, sadly, it is an open, proud and largely unchallenged truth.
We can’t let this continue.