Yearly Archives: 2020

What I’m Expecting

I started writing this back in February, but didn’t manage to get it down in a condensed version until mid-August when I unleashed it as a tweet storm. Here’s the slightly expanded and cleaned-up version. Posted here for posterity so you can call me a genius or an idiot later.

The election in November isn’t going to be pretty. It won’t be done by the start of December, either. And when I say “not pretty,” I don’t just mean it’s going to take a while and involve people on CNN yelling at each other. Glad we’re all used to staying inside, because it’s going to be safer there.

Montgomery County, Pennsylvania (the third largest county in the state) didn’t certify primary election results for over 14 days. That was in a primary with ~45% turnout among primary voters, which is around 85% of all registered voters. 14 days. Two weeks. Guess what happens when we hit 70% turnout of all registered voters? Think we won’t hit 70%? My precinct did n 2018. This was a high-turnout primary despite the fact that it was essentially a nothingburger for most of the races. Dems had a choice on Auditor General, Republicans had basically nothing. People were just excited to vote. They’re going to be even more excited in November.

Expect high turnout, especially since there is no “I couldn’t make it to the polls” excuse anymore. Expect way more mail-in voting wherever it’s available. That said, my precinct saw almost record-high turnout among in-person voters. Discounting mail-ins entirely, it was the third-highest turnout in the past two decades, and not by a huge margin. Add in the mail-ins and it was far and away the highest turnout my precinct has seen for as far back as they publish statistics for.

Exit polling is going to be all over the place, because we’re not going to be able to rely in exit polling on mail-ins. How could we? Exit polls are literally done by asking people walking out of the polls. Now, mail-ins and walk-ins in my area were pretty much evenly split along party lines as they related to a percentage of voters, but it’s probably a safe bet that exit poll numbers are going to favor Trump.

He’s going to claim victory based on that. You know he is. Why wouldn’t he? When we get the real final numbers in 2 (maybe 3 or even more) weeks, Biden is likely to be the winner, and he’ll claim victory. Now we have a problem. Think Trump will concede? He has adamantly refused to accept the results of an election that he won, what do you think he will say if he loses? That was always the plan, though. He was tweeting about how there was already fraud happening around mail-in voting, despite not a single ballot being sent out when we didn’t even know who was running. Fraud, in an election process that hasn’t started.

Thing is, mail-in voting isn’t rife with fraud. We have plenty of data on that from states that have been doing it. But that doesn’t matter – Trump has been spinning reality from his delusions because there is a significant segment of the population that believes everything he says, no matter how outlandish.

But now we have malicious manipulation of the postal system for the express purpose of stymying the mail-in voting process. We have the Trump campaign blowing millions to fight the placement of ballot drop boxes. On the whole, though, I expect that the system will work correctly. But that won’t exactly matter when the losing candidate starts launching lawsuits in every state he loses. I expect lawsuits in all 50 states. Legal teams are going to be thick on the ground in the swing states, though. And when it comes to states like Pennsylvania, where the results could take weeks, don’t expect to know by Thanksgiving who the actual victor is. That won’t stop the lawsuits, though. The first lawsuit challenging the results will likely be filed before the polls close.

What happens in between election day and final certification is going to be a lot of crazy. Trump is no stranger to whipping up his base with totally ludicrous statements that somehow people believe. Say 40% of the electorate votes for him. Say 25% of those people believe when he says the election has been stolen. That’s still 15 million people who are convinced that the election is illegitimate. Let’s say just 1 tenth of 1% of those people are willing to do something about it. You know what I mean. That’s still 15,000 people.

Do you think I’m speaking in hyperbole here? Wake up, it’s 2020. We’ve had people in the streets for months protesting actual injustice. We’ve had actual Nazis willing to kill out there. In Portland, we’ve had right-wing agitators aided by the police attacking locals for years. Those are the 15,000 people – the ones who are already on the street looking for targets. The political violence is going to get a lot worse.

Trump is already blaming Biden for all of this political violence, which is some egregious doublethink. What happens when he takes to the airwaves to make the case that unless the election is decided in his favor, violence will only intensify? He praised a 17-year-old who murdered protesters in cold blood. Do you really think he will ever go on television and ask for calm? At this point, if he did, do you think anyone would listen?

Any violence is going to be attributed to left-wing radicals and government forces are going to be brought to bear on them, despite repeated data that shows the violence is almost always instigated by right-wing provocateurs, sometimes with the implicit or even explicit aid of law enforcement. We’ve had waves upon waves of protests against injustice going for months now, and it’s just going to get more intense as those protests morph into protests against a stolen election.

Blue state governors are going to wind up in open opposition to the federal government. It won’t be talk anymore. We’re already seeing that in places like Washington and California, and even here in Philadelphia where the DA put federal law enforcement on notice. The federal system is going to get some serious strain the likes of which haven’t been seen since 1861. We already have a federal law enforcement apparatus that is acting as a political wing, issuing favors or reprisals against political allies and enemies at the behest of the President. What happens when that gets turned up to 11?

Out in the suburbs, it might feel a little tense, but in population centers, it’s getting close to civil war. Government institutions are breaking down and are being used for overtly political purposes. This election isn’t going to be fair and free, and it’s going to lead to even more political violence. That violence is going to persist after the election, regardless of who wins.

The question is how much, and can we survive it intact? I really hope I’m wrong. I hope that if Biden wins, Trump gracefully concedes in a manner that doesn’t sow discord, and we have a peaceful transition of power. I think there’s well more than enough evidence to suggest that isn’t going to happen, though.

Just a bit late

I usually do this in May each year, and what do you know, the fifteen years that was May just flew by. So here’s my Political Compass update:

Yep, that’s:
Economic Left/Right: -9.5
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -9.08

I’m sure current events may have something to do with that being the first time both of those numbers have hit -9, but it’s really right in the ballpark for me.

A Republic, If You Can Keep It

There was no chance that Senate Republicans were going to acquit Trump, but they definitely did their level best to come off as dictator-state-running goons in the process. The worst part about at least one of their justifications is that it isn’t a bad argument. Marco Rubio had a compelling point when he said “Just because actions meet a standard of impeachment does not mean it is in the best interest of the country to remove a President from office.” That’s actually a solid point. It’s a rebuke, an admission that the conduct was not above-board, but a plausible deferral to an appeal to stability. I disagree wholeheartedly, but I appreciate the merits of the argument, because they accept the basic facts of the case and reduce it to a point of opinion.

Unfortunately, with the exception of Rubio, they went hard into the defense that If The President Does It, It’s Not Illegal. Literally – Alan Dershowitz’s core argument wasn’t that Trump was not guilty of the thing that he was charged with, but that such a thing is not thing that a President can be impeached for. He literally argued that “maladministration” was something that the framers rejected, something that they thought was in the normal course of things. The President cannot abuse his power. Not only is this argument wrong, it’s dangerous.

Once the vote is done and Trump is acquitted 53-47 (or maybe, if Mitt Romney does the right thing when it doesn’t matter, 52-48), it will be a matter of record that It’s OK To Enlist The Aid Of A Foreign Power To Help Sway An Election, Because The Senate Said So.

James Madison, speaking in favor of writing impeachment of the President into the Constitution, argued that “some provision should be made for defending the Community [against] the incapacity, negligence or perfidy of the chief Magistrate. The limitation of the period of his service, was not a sufficient security. He might lose his capacity after his appointment. He might pervert his administration into a scheme of peculation or oppression. He might betray his trust to foreign powers.” It should be noted that Madison was debating people who were arguing against the entire concept of impeachment. It would be logical to assume that Madison won that point. Yet, 233 years later when that exact thing happened, the winning argument was “the framers absolutely meant the exact opposite of what they said and wrote.”

(Of course, in the next breath from my previous Madison quote, he said “It could not be presumed that all or even a majority of the members of an Assembly would either lose their capacity for discharging, or be bribed to betray, their trust.” So maybe a bit naïve there, Jimmy, considering the Republicans hold a majority and were proud of the manner in which they betrayed their trust.)

Therein lies the crux of the issue. There was a way for all parties to conduct this in a manner that would not prove to be absolutely destructive to the Constitution yet still end with Trump acquitted, but Republicans chose the path of obliteration. This isn’t a slippery slope sort of argument, this is the reality. The argument of record about checking an out-of-control executive is that there is no Constitutional remedy. That elections are the only way to remove a President.

George Mason argued against this point when he added the words “high crimes and misdemeanors:” “Shall the man who has practiced corruption, and by that means procured his appointment in the first instance, be suffered to escape punishment by repeating his guilt?” Dershowitz has successfully argued that the answer here is “yes.” “Sure, if the President wins an election by engaging in corrupt manipulation, the only way to remove that President is through an election, which they would be free to corruptly manipulate.”

The framers, at least the ones who had their ideas persist into the document itself, were very clear: elections are not the only recourse to a corrupt and dangerous administration. There is a built-in ejection seat, specifically for the purpose of removing a President who is abusing his power. Article II was not intended to be a suicide pact.

Marry this argument with unlimited money in politics thanks to Citizens United, and the Supreme Court affirming partisan gerrymandering as a thing that the framers (who wrote the document devoid of references to political parties), and you have a perfect recipe for a single-party dictator state. Once one part of the Constitution has been altered to remove parts that were inconvenient, there is nothing to stop other parts from going the same way.

We have witnessed a clear violation of multiple parts of our founding document, and the response was a collective shrug. The facts are not even in dispute: Trump did the thing. He admitted to doing the thing. His legal team says he did the thing. The thing is wrong. The thing is against the rules. The referees have viewed this evidence and decided that since it’s their guy, that means it’s OK, the rules don’t apply, and therefore, the Constitution is now a meaningless piece of paper, to be discarded when it is inconvenient. Article II has effectively been rewritten L’etat, c’est moi. Which part goes next?