Day 293. The second day of the new year. 2020 ended horrifically with several more deaths of good friends and many people are just reeling at the loss. Richard Bates, head of Disney and ABC’s office, but who ran the DCCC years ago and a frIend of many decades suddenly dropped dead of a probable heart attack. He was one of the most decent people I knew. Integrity his middle name. He was honorable, trustworthy, old school. You knew his word was good and his judgement could be trusted. I simply cannot believe it.
Than there is nothing more devastating than for parents to loose a child, and one of our colleagues lost their son as well. His father observed “Tommy was pure magic. His brilliance and compassion knew no bounds……and was devoted to the cause of the global poor.” These deaths have touched so many I know and just leave us shattered again. I am so glad it is a new year, but we haven’t waved a magic wand and made it all better. It is going to be a tough few months yet and we simply have to listen to the experts, do what they say, respect each other, support each other, watch out for each other and see that light at the end of the tunnel.
I debated whether to stay light in the blog one more day, or talk about what is really happening in DC over the course of the next few days and decided I couldn’t ignore the reality. Tomorrow, I will be in the chair of the House at 10:00 am and will adjourn the 116 th Congress “Sine Die Pro Forma”. At noon, the 117 th Congress will convene. January 3 at noon is the date and time set by the Constitution for the convening of a new Congress every other year. The date can be changed by law, and often is if the day falls on a weekend, but this year House and Senate leadership have decided to keep the date as is this year, for many different reasons, including the Georgia Senate Elections on Tuesday and the Congressional certification of the electoral college on January 6 th. Sunday, we convene with a quorum call, election of Speaker and than we will be sworn in for the new Congress. There may be some protests and we will see what the day brings. And everything that happens occurs in groups. We will be spaced in groups, no friend or family and the doctors are being very strict in ensuring the environment is safe.
It is what happens later in the week that is of great concern to me. The Constitution requires Congress to approve the results of the Presidential election. Since the mid-20th century, Congress has met in a Joint Session every four years on January 6 at 1:00 p.m. to certify the results of the Electoral College. With the ratification of the Twentieth Amendment to the Constitution (and starting with the 75th Congress in 1937), the electoral votes are counted before the newly sworn-in Congress. The sitting Vice President presides over the meeting and opens an envelope which contains the votes from each state in alphabetical order. He passes the votes to four tellers—two from the House and two from the Senate—who announce the results. House tellers include one Representative from each party and are appointed by the Speaker. The Vice-President announces the results of the State vote and then calls for any objections. At the end of the count, the Vice President then announces the name of the next President. But as with most things in the last few years, this is expected to be a long complicated day. And I fear, will continue to undermine people’s confidence in our democracy.
The law allows any member of Congress to object to a state’s votes, but for an objection to be official, one member of the US House and one US Senator must object. An objection is dealt with by the Congress as a whole. Once an objection to a state’s votes is made, each house of Congress meets in their respective chambers, debates the objection for two hours and votes on whether to uphold the objection. Both the House and Senate must vote to uphold for the objection to become official. Republicans have indicated they will challenge at least six states votes. The objections that will be raised will slow the counting down, may extend the session into Thursday but are not expected to alter the ultimate result: 306 electoral votes for Biden and 232 for President Donald Trump. In effect, the conservative planned slowdown is a disruptive, negative protest that will make the President happy as well as his supporters but will not change the real outcome of the election. It will be further divide this country and cause some to again wonder about our democracy and that is why I worry.
Of most concern are the planned demonstrations that the President himself is calling for and those that are participating threatening violence the day of the count. There will be a number of rallies in DC to demand that Congress overturn the legitimate results of the electoral college. Formal rallies are planned and demonstrators are expected at the Washington Monument, Freedom Plaza and the Capitol. Onlime forums and encrypted chat messages among far-right groups indicate a number of demonstrators are planning more than chanting and waving signs. Threats of violence, ploys to smuggle guns into the District and calls to set up an “armed encampment” on the Mall have proliferated in online chats. The Proud Boys, members of armed right-wing groups, conspiracy theorists and white supremacists have pledged to attend. Businesses have already boarded up windows. Government worker, businesses, even hotels are closing and want to be far away. I have to work in the midst of this and oh by the way, Congress is one of their targets.
The President himself tweeted
Donald J. Trump
The BIG Protest Rally in Washington, D.C., will take place at 11.00 A.M. on January 6th. Locational details to follow. StopTheSteal!
I believe in freedom of speech and the right to protest. But violence, hatred, anger, fear and encouraging them deeply disturbs me. There has been no evidence of widespread fraud despite a myriad of election lawsuits brought in multiple states and including federal courts all the way to the Supreme Court. They have not won, judges have not found the systematic fraud they keep claiming. Nor was any evidence of fraud found in reviews by the Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security and numerous other experts and and other stated and federal agencies. What we are witnessing is attacks on democracy and also efforts to even undermine the legitimacy of the Senate Races in Georgia.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell observed “I’m finishing 36 years in the Senate and I’ve cast a lot of big votes including over war and impeachment. And in my view, this is will be the most consequential I have ever cast.” He is reported to have called this a vote of conscience and said “we’re being asked to overturn the results after a guy didn’t get as many electoral votes and lost by 7 million popular votes.” Senator Mitt Romney observed “spreading this kind of rumor about our election system not working is dangerous for democracy here and abroad.”
Republican Senator Ben Sasse wrote “I will not be participating in a project to overturn the election” and am “urging my colleagues also to reject this dangerous ploy.” In a Facebook posting he wrote that there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud that could have changed the result of the election, and the “president and his allies are playing with fire” by contesting the election in “courts, then state legislatures, now the Congress. “All the clever arguments and rhetorical gymnastics in the world won’t change the fact that this January 6th effort is designed to disenfranchise millions of Americans simply because they voted for someone in a different party. [Trump and his allies] have unsuccessfully called on judges and are now calling on federal officeholders to invalidate millions and millions of votes. If you make big claims, you had better have the evidence. But the president doesn’t and neither do the institutional arsonist members of Congress who will object to the Electoral College vote.” Other Republican Senators have been equally articulate. Powerful words.
We have witnessed a peaceful and orderly transfer of power between presidential administrations for 224 years. Each transfer of power between individuals and sometimes different political parties has been achieved because of the decency and integrity of the office holders and the candidates and their commitment to honoring the will of the voters. What we are witnessing now is harming the our democracy, our communities and our national security. President George Bush after loosing to President Bill Clinton wrote “Your success now is our country’s success. I am rooting hard for you.”
It is time for us to come together. We are watching people’s confidence in the fundamental pillars of our democracy being challenged, threatened and eroded. Fundamental norms are no longer respected and institutions are not trusted. We continue to witness the loss of civility and respect between each other seriously contributing to a break down in our communities, the sense of connection, the loss of individual engagement which is the strength of our democracy. Our country is hurting. And all of this is happening in the middle of a raging pandemic when we need to be supporting each other not harming each other. Our country thrives when when we can disagree agreeably; battle passionately for diverse and different ideas but be respectful. We can argue and debate and defend our values but do so without destroying each other and what we believe in. We learn from each other, grow with each other, make America stronger. Now is a time for kindness, compassion, empathy and helping each other.
So yes I am worried. But I won’t stop fighting for the heart and soul of America and our democracy. It is up to all of us to care, engage and protect its freedom and principles. Violence is never the answer. Trust, faith, belief, respect, civility. These are the norms I choose. It will be a long week, but our democracy has endured and it will survive. But this is a reminder we cannot take it for granted.
Be Safe! Wear Your Masks! Keep Your Physical Distance! Wash Your Hands! Thought for this day Benjamin Franklin “I hope…that all mankind will at length…have reason and sense enough to settle their differences without cutting throats.” D2
P.s. In the weird world we are in, I found myself cheering for Ohio State our normal rival and they made the Big Ten proud in their upset win over Clemson. Next up, I cannot wait to see them show Alabama the strength of the Midwest. I am a Go Blue girl but Ohio State earned our respect. Our prayer is 2021 will bring many things back to normal. I hope the annual Michigan-Ohio State game after Thanksgiving returns and I will be back to all blue. But Congrats to the Buckeyes for a game well played.