Heather Cox Richardson recently brought her historian’s perspective to what she suggested were signs of civil discord–even, potentially, civil war. They included a speech by GOP Representative Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina, in which he insisted that the January 6 rioters are being held as “political hostages.” Evidently, someone in the audience asked him “When are you going to call us to Washington again?” (I found the “again” rather incriminating…) Cawthorn, a member of the GOP’s growing lunatic caucus, took the bait, saying“We are actively working on that one…. We have a few plans in motion that I can’t make public right now.”
Among other alarming remarks he made was his declaration that “The Second Amendment was written so that we can fight against tyranny.” (Those guns really going to win the day against government tanks and drones, Madison?)
Incredible as it may seem, right wing figures are calling for civil war.
Richardson also quoted one Steve Lynch, a candidate for Northampton County executive, for the following “advice:” “Forget going into these school boards with freaking data. You go into these school boards to remove them. I’m going in with 20 strong men and I’m gonna give them an option—they can leave or they can be removed.”
Also to be filed under “chilling” was a placard held by a man who attended a Santa Monica protest leading up to a vote on a mask mandate; the sign had the names and home addresses of each Los Angeles City Council member and threatened that protesters would visit the homes of those who voted for the mandate. If it passed, the sign warned, “Civil War is coming! Get your guns!”
A paper recently published by The Brookings Institution actually considered arguments for and against the likelihood of an upcoming civil war–an analysis that would have seemed preposterous not so long ago. (The authors ultimately decided such a war is unlikely–but in the wake of the January 6th insurrection, it isn’t beyond the realm of possibility.)
In the Washington Post, Greg Sargent considered the “fixes” that need to be made to the Electoral College count in order to avoid a future election being stolen. As he pointed out, the Act’s language, which sets the process for Congress to count presidential electoral votes, is vague and prone to abuse.
The ECA sets a “safe harbor” deadline: If a state certifies its electors six days before the electoral college meets, Congress must count them, but it can technically throw out a particular electoral vote if it decides it was not “regularly given.” This phrase is supposed to indicate serious corruption or illegality but isn’t defined, leaving it open to bad-faith congressional objections to those electors.
The ECA is supposed to provide for resolution of resulting disputes in Congress over any state’s slate of electors. If a single senator and House member objects to a slate, each chamber must vote on them. If both chambers agree to invalidate the slate, they don’t get counted.
There are several main ways this can result in stolen elections. One is if a state sends one slate of electors — a valid one reflecting the state’s popular vote — and both chambers decline to count them, based on a bogus claim that they were not “regularly given.”
Given that the current iteration of the Republican Party should probably be renamed “Bogus Claim R Us,” this is not a fanciful scenario. As Sargent reminds us, the scenarios he enumerates are exactly the ones Trump pressured GOP state legislatures to adopt– and many Republican members of Congress raised obviously bogus objections to acceptance of the correct slates.
Meanwhile, “audits” in Arizona and elsewhere are dry runs at manufacturing pretexts to raise sufficient doubt about a state’s popular vote to trigger such scenarios.
I know I harp on gerrymandering and the media environment, but before the advent of computers made it possible to micro-target voters and social media made it possible to shut out voices of reason, the parties generally steered clear of nominating the sorts of lunatics who are driving the current political debates.
Most conversations about the Constitution center on the rights protected by the Bill of Rights. But the Constitution also prescribes mechanisms for electing and governing–and if we don’t modernize several of those mechanisms, we’ll end up losing the Bill of Rights.
We need to fix it–or just forget about the American Experiment.