Halleluiah!! We can keep our democratic republic, at least for the next four years. I won’t relax, however, until President-elect Joe Biden takes the oath of office on January 20 next year and President Trump and his family are out of the White House. Still, based on his record of gross incompetence, Trump should have been dramatically ejected from the presidency by a Biden landslide. The fact that he wasn’t is troubling.
Truth is, over 72 million Americans voted their approval of Trump’s authoritarian tendencies and his attacks on our democratic institutions. They evidently don’t care that Attorney General Bill Barr’s Justice Department became a de facto part of Trump’s political organization and that the president put loyal lackies in charge of Homeland Security, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Defense.
And I’m concerned that down ballot voting seemed to confirm that Republican obstruction, hypocrisy, lies, bigotry and voter suppression didn’t cost them much beyond the presidency. They even gained seats in the U.S. House. For me, that is the most disturbing result of this election. When politicians – in this case Republicans – don’t pay a price for their malfeasance, they have no reason to change and I don’t believe they will.
So, here we are again, another Republican president has left his Democratic successor with a full plate of monumental crises. President Biden will be heir to a raging pandemic, massive federal deficits, high unemployment, a weak economy, a foreign policy in shambles and a world that mostly views the United States as a pitiful nation in decline. Does anyone believe Republicans will help Biden solve these problems? I don’t.
In fact, I am confident that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) is already thinking ahead to 2024. If Republicans still control the Senate, which is likely, McConnell can prevent Biden from enacting any progressive legislation, block or impede his judicial appointments and generally obstruct his administration just like he did with President Obama. The Senate leader will hope that the American public will blame Biden for failing to achieve important objectives and vote more Republicans into Congress in 2022, perhaps even retaking the House and adding additional Senators to the Republican caucus. That would put the GOP in an excellent position to elect their presidential candidate in four years and have full control of the government again in 2025, just like they did in 2017.
Even while falsely claiming that he won this year, Trump is already talking about being a candidate again in 2024. Congressional Republicans are both supporting his efforts to contest this election and indicating he should run in four years. The foregoing tells me that the GOP leadership believes an autocracy will help them retain power better than a democracy and there’s some data to support this proposition.
The Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) Institute at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden maintains data on political parties around the world. One graph produced by this organization shows how the Republican Party’s commitment to democracy has steadily eroded since the late 1990s and fell off a cliff after Donald Trump was elected in 2016. Another shows how Republican Party leaders went from demonizing Democrats “half the time” around 2009 to “usually” demonizing them around 2016. V-Dem also graphed how Republican Party leaders increased explicitly encouraging violence against political opponents around 2012 and how it continued from there through Trump’s leadership. Conversely, the Democratic Party received a high, steady rating for its commitment to democracy, with low incidences of opponent demonization and calls for violence against adversaries.
What’s the good news? I believe private citizen Donald Trump will be facing a substantial possibility of being indicted for numerous crimes when he leaves office in 2021, including massive money laundering, bank fraud and insurance fraud. That’s probably why he is fighting so hard to retain the presidency. Fearing prosecution by a Biden appointed U.S. attorney general and a U.S. attorney in the hard driving Southern District of New York, I believe Trump will attempt to pardon himself and his family before he leaves office.
The problem for The Donald – a federal pardon won’t prevent Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance from getting his financial records and that could lead to indictments by a New York grand jury. Trump loyalists may want their hero to run again in 2024 but I think he has a better chance of going to jail than he does of serving a second term as president.
No matter, there are numerous far-right Republicans who are courting Trump’s base and advocating Trumpian policies. No doubt, a dozen or more of them will throw their hat in the 2024 ring. The one I fear the most though is Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is highly intelligent, ruthless and unethical. He has the skills to use the anti-democracy precedents set by Trump to control the federal government and again put the fate of our democratic republic at risk.
For now, however, we can revel in the fact that Trump will not have four more years to subvert the Constitution and further destroy the image of the United States abroad. And we can be confident that competent, ethical Biden-appointed officials will follow the rule of law as they control key government agencies that protect us from threats, both foreign and domestic.
Oh yes. Halleluiah!