Post-Final-Debate Reflections

Yesterday morning, as my husband and I were surveying the post-debate reactions, he made an offhand remark that struck me as really perceptive–even profound: “How is Trump refusing to honor the results of a democratic election any different from the Republicans in the Senate refusing to vet a Supreme Court nominee?”

He’s absolutely right. There is no difference, and all of the Republicans currently clutching their pearls over Trump’s forthright acknowledgment that he neither understands nor intends to follow the rules of constitutional government need to recognize that the orange monster they have nominated is simply an exaggerated and less self-aware version of what the GOP has become, with its accusations of “vote fraud” intended to suppress minority turnout, and its highly selective defenses of Constitutional principles. (Second Amendment good; Fourteenth not so much…)

In fact, a case could be made that Trump is less culpable than Mitch McConnell, since McConnell knows what the rules are, and deliberately chooses to ignore them when it suits his and his party’s purposes. Trump, on the other hand, is clearly ignorant of democratic norms and the most basic operations of government. (He continues to berate Hillary for not single-handedly effecting changes to U.S. law when she was in the Senate. I doubt whether he could even define federalism or checks and balances, let alone comprehend Senate procedures.)

We are at one of those periodic turning points in American political life; I don’t think it is an exaggeration to suggest that this election–coming on the heels of the slow-motion disintegration of a once-responsible political party– will serve as an indicator of the country’s future trajectory.

Either the electorate will administer a final coup de grace to the current iteration of the GOP, after which we will see a new or different political party emerge, as happened after the implosion of the Whigs, or the election will be close enough, and down-ticket Republicans successful enough, to maintain the toxic status quo. If the latter,  we will occupy the America of  Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell, where the rule of law is subservient to autocratic power, where (in Leona Helmsley’s famously dismissive phrase) taxes and laws are for “the little people,” and “We the People” becomes “me, myself and I.”


  1. We’ve all been so busy being mad at Trump and worrying, that the country forgets Adelson and the the Koch brothers. They didn’t go away. I know Yall havent but lots have.

  2. Though not covered directly in the Constitution; is there a specific win/lose margin regarding all elections, specifically the presidential, which would prevent Trump from demanding a recount or contesting the election/electoral results? I understand that he has the right under the 1st Amendment to spout his views – and we know he WILL – but I am still clueless regarding the whys and wherefores of the recount in the 2000 election. It was a close election in more than the state of Florida where George W’s little brother was Governor, yet the recount was done only in Florida. I lived there at the time and watched and read daily broadcasts in all media…reporting Gore in the lead. Also reporting purging votes of registered and qualified voters who spoke out – much like Trump’s sexual abuse victims are speaking out at this time.

    I will repeat myself on this issue as I have on others; one vital lesson we have learned since 2010 is how LITTLE power the President has when up against an opposing and unreasonable Congress. As Bob pointed out regarding their refusal to hear and rule on a Supreme Court nominee; a REQUIREMENT which is covered in the Constitution. Remember; even if the November 8th election ousts sitting Republicans at federal and state levels, they are still in control till January 1, 2017, and can do much additional damage. If they lose on November 8th, it is not going to improve their attitudes or wake them up to the “error of their ways”. IF – IF – they lose their current majority it will be due to Donald Trump; the nominee they say they do not support but will vote for.

  3. Let’s not forget that the nearly irrelevant GOP still control the majority of the Governors’ mansions and the state legislatures in this country. With that power, they also control redistricting in those states. With that power, they control the House of Representatives. With that power, they control the government’s purse. With that power, they are free to disrupt government as much as they like.

    As much as I would love to read the obituary of the current Republican party, I don’t see that happening any time soon.

  4. Sheila:

    …the toxic status quo. If the latter, we will occupy the America of Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell, where the rule of law is subservient to autocratic power, where (in Leona Helmsley’s famously dismissive phrase) taxes and laws are for “the little people,” and “We the People” becomes “me, myself and I.”

    I checked out a great book from the library yesterday which strongly reinforces the above post:

    “The Politicians & The Egalitarians” by Sean Wilentz (New York: W.W.Norton & Company, 2016)

    Inside flap: “First, America is built on an egalitarian tradition. At the nation’s founding, Americans believed that extremes of wealth and want would destroy their revolutionary experiment in republican government. Ever since, that idea has shaped national political conflict and scored major egalitarian victories–from the Civil War and Progressive eras to the New Deal and the Great Society–along the way.”

    “Second, partisanship is a permanent fixture in America, and America is the better for it. Every major egalitarian victory in United States history has resulted neither from abandonment of partisan politics nor from social movement protests but from a CONVERGENCE OF PROTEST AND POLITICS, and then sharp struggles led by PRINCIPLED AND EFFECTIVE party politicians. There is little to be gained from the dream of a post-partisan world.”

    e-gal-i-tar-i-an (e gal’a ter’e an) adj. [Fr. egalite, equality] advocating full political, social, and economic equality for all people–n. a person advocating this
    ~Webster’s New World Dictionary


  5. Being a person who doesn’t have adequate knowledge of the powers within Congress I have wondered why Congress is allowed to refuse to obey the U.S. Constitution. Can anyone explain to me why there is not a way to sue them or force them to approve a Supreme Court nominee? Or why they have such enormous power to be able to refuse to do other work that they were voted into office to accomplish?

  6. The Republican Party sowed the seeds of its own demise with the embrace of the ideas of Ronald Reagan. What may have been meant to be only a passing insult was repeated over the decades to become the base philosophy of the conservative mind. “Less government is good government.” Putting this into action has meant that we have a less and less effective government, not better government.

    We arrive now at the point where ignorance of HOW the government is suppose to work is the norm with Republican candidates and office holders across the country. Republican controlled states continue to sink into an abyss of poverty, structural decline and social discord. Reason and logic no longer play a role in their decision making as they strain to keep control over their base by appealing to the intolerance and bigotry found there. Thus we get an ever more intrusive government that tries to control the public restrooms by dictating who is to use which rest room, and stricter control over every reproductive aspect of women’s lives. We get a government that uses fear to aid weapons manufacturers in their efforts to sell their wares and arm every household in the country. We get a government that uses religion to allow discrimination in the marketplace against non-believers and others.

    Over the past eight years they have used their power to bring real progress to a halt. If the country is a mess these days, the source has been and remains the Republican Party. What none of them seems to understand is that an advanced country of over 300 million citizens needs a big, effective, smart government, not decline and collapse. If the majority now sees this the Republican Party will soon destroy itself. Or we will all go down together.

  7. Regarding Nancy’s question about whether a remedy exists for Senate Republicans refusing to perform their constitutional “advise and consent” obligation, there is a suit pending in the district court for the District of Columbia which raises that very question. Michel v. McConnell. I’d be happy to forward the pleadings to anyone who’s interested in learning more about it. The Judge has ordered McConnell to respond by 11/28.

  8. I desperately hope that the Senate becomes majority Democrat, but I haven’t spent enough time on 538 to figure out the chances. If not, I can guarantee you no Supreme Court appointments for the next 8 years, because that’s how bad things are.

  9. Jo Anne: As I understand it, the Bush/Gore Florida recount in 2000 was triggered automatically by a Florida law because the result was so close. So, again as I understand it, neither the Bush nor Gore camps actually initiated the recount in Florida (contrary to The Donald’s claim that Gore demanded a recount).

    There is nothing in the Federal Constitution mandating or regulating when and how recounts are done. As has been repeatedly pointed out since the present “Republican” Party Presidential candidate began braying that the election system is rigged (but only against him), under our Federal system each State, with some constitutional limitations, is in charge of holding, running, and certifying the results of elections. So the laws regulating how elections are conducted, even for Federal offices such as President, Senate and Congress, are for the most part State laws.

    Not sure whether other States have provisions similar to Florida’s concerning automatic recounts under certain circumstances, but I believe candidates can request recounts in close outcomes — most likely with different provisions of when and how recounts can be done — in every State.

  10. The Constitution does not set a time limit within which there must be a Senate vote on Supreme Court nominees, thus effectively nullifying the supposed power of the executive to have such nominations acted upon in timely fashion. Meanwhile, considering the present 4-4 composition of the court, we have made the decision of the circuit from which the appeal to the Supreme Court is made to be our de facto Supreme Court’s finding since their holding is (effectively) final. Mitch McConnell is not interested in the orderly workings of government; he is interested only in the acquisition and use of raw political power to further the interests of Wall Street and the supposed wishes of “the people” he and his ilk claim to represent. Meanwhile, “the people” (and their creditors) continue to suffer the ravages of wage inequality and the rich and corporate class traipses merrily down the yellow brick road to even greater vast wealth unencumbered by taxes and owing only chump change in political contributions to the campaigns of the likes of McConnell to maintain the status quo. Both Piketty and Stiglitz say this cannot continue, but as the years tick by and nothing happens I am beginning to wonder.

  11. Apparently, many of your followers cannot read a campaign finance report, and also have short memories.

    We don’t have a democracy or a republic. It requires an active and informed citizenry. We lost this country a long time ago. These elections are pointless. If anybody reading didn’t believe Hillary Clinton wouldn’t be anointed the first female American president, please step forward.

    Someone commented about “ethical politicians” – this is the ultimate oxymoronic statement. For one, if you have ethics, or even knows what it means, you’ll never be supported by a political party. They don’t want “change agents” within their ranks. They want people who can deliver the goods for their supporters. Period.

    If you think only republicans are unethical boors, you’ve fallen victim to political party kool aid advocated by the establishment owned media. There is NO difference between Fox and MSNBC – the both peddle faux news to a their listeners. Each their own respective echo chamber.

    When the American people realize we’re being lied to across the board to keep us divided and fighting each other, versus focusing on those pulling the strings, we’ll start gaining ground.

    All our systems are held together by fraud and deception. It requires immense propaganda (public relations) to hold all these deceptions together. Take a look at who owns our “free and independent press” in this country. It’s the Entertainment Complex.

    I point that out because MSNBC (the voice of liberal America) is owned by NBC, which owns the rights to MGM’s, The Apprentice. As we’ve learned, there are now 10 women who’ve accused Trump of inappropriate touching. This went on for over a decade, yet MSNBC didn’t know about it?? How’s that possible??

    The director, Ron Howard, tweeted about the “real Donald Trump” after the 2nd debate, so I guess it was common knowledge. So again, why did it take a “NBC whistleblower” to disclose the outtake showing Trump being a pig?

    This was all political theater played out exactly as Hillary Clinton’s strategy planned from Wikileaks, AND all the media played along – exploit Trump or Cruz, then destroy them in the general election.

    So again, why did the “liberal voice of America” follow that script? Fifteen other republican candidates were ignored in favor of Donald Trump.

    Not sure about you, but that doesn’t sound much like democracy, or a republic. The Oligarchs choose a candidate, and then the media plays their role by implementing the plan.

    When CNN tells Americans NOT to look at the truth on Wikileaks, we’ve got a problem. When our government prosecutes whistleblowers (resources for journalism), then we’ve got a problem.

    As a country, we now rank 36th internationally for press freedom. We are a closed society. The only “sources” or “leaks” coming from our government are done intentionally. We all saw how the Bush administration pushed the lie of WMD on the media, who then convinced the world.

    Obama is worse than Bush, except if your last name is Clinton. 😉

    And, justice for all…

  12. Rampant narcissism is not just some weird clinical label that doesn’t mean much or have a substantial impact on society. It eats at worth of institutions and destroy human functioning. We suffer with narcissistic people in our daily lives, in our neighbors and occupations, but Mr. Trump’s narcissism, and it’s ability to disrupt, undermine and even destroy our institutions can hardly be overstated. if you have even listened with half an ear, you have heard about the damage this man leaves in his wake, and it would be no different with this country.

  13. Dear commenters – the remedy for Senator Mitch McConnell’s refusal to perform the Senate’s obligation to advise and consent on Supreme Court nominations is in our hands. Indiana’s U.S. Senate race is likely to determine whether McConnell goes or stays as Senate leader. If you want McConnell to be replaced as Senate Leader, vote for Evan Bayh right here in Indiana. If Bayh is elected, he will NOT vote for MItch McConnell for Senate leader. If Todd Young elected, he can be expected to re-elect McConnell as Senate leader with more gridlock to follow.

    If Sheila’s blog messages about civic responsibility has hit its mark, then call your county headquarters or favorite candidate to volunteer and to motivate and assist others to get to the polls.

  14. Nancy is right. The presidential election is over but we must elect Democratic senators and representatives to give Hillary the support she will need in reversing some of the immense damage tea party Republicans and their sidekick libertarians have done to this country and its people. I note in passing that it is also important to do what we can (in spite of Republican gerrymandering) in returning some semblance of the states’ real and honest political makeup to state houses around the nation, including Indiana. Needless to say, we must also elect Democratic governors in order to exclude ALEC and others from exercising political control via campaign contributions to the present ruling elite. Our job is far from finished with the election in our wake. We are going to win the presidency and the Senate and have a real shot at the House this cycle, but after all the shouting and insults we are going to have to do what we do best – govern. Expect trouble. Those who are rich and don’t pay taxes won’t go down without a fight.

  15. David F; thank you for the information. The media at that time was reporting the recount found many deceased and convicted felons had voted…so they claimed and those vote were purged even with some voters coming forward – alive and with no criminal history. During the recount someone “happened to find” boxes of absentee ballots, date stamped, stored in a closet. Those doing the recount discounted them claiming they hadn’t been received before the election. Even with your helpful information; I still question why it was only Florida, where W’s brother Jeb was governor, that a recount was done.

    I watched Hillary and Trump’s speeches from the Al Smith Dinner; they both got off some good shots, Trump’s of course tended to be courser than Hillary’s for the most part, he was booed at one point. She took full advantage of the fact that he could not get away with his constant interruptions and corrections and sent some real zingers. Does anyone out there believe Trump would have even attempted the “debate tactics” or the mudslinging, lying campaign had he faced Bernie Sanders…or any male nominee?

    We have had three historical presidential elections in a row; the first two were, to those of us who recognize quality and greatness in a man, were sources of pride and the honor of this country was upheld. This past year has been ugly and shameful; the Constitution tossed aside, as were some qualified candidates amid accusations of illegal activities and rigging. Our diplomatic reputation with foreign nations; so carefully upgraded and guarded by President Obama, is now in shreds…thanks to one fool with a lot of money and a disastrously weak Republican party supporting and voting for him.

    The founding fathers could no more have foreseen the possibility of this past year than they could our landing on the moon. The Constitution and Amendments were conceived and written to protect all Americans; until selected Amendments have been denied and Citizens United put our government up for auction on the slave block. The remaining days till November 8th seem endless; God bless America and God save us from ourselves. We are not blameless in the current conditions.

  16. Todd good post @ 11:10. Here is another Triumph if you will for the entertainment establishment. >> It was announced that Wonder Woman would become United Nations’ honorary ambassador earlier this month, in support of the UN’s sustainable development goal number five – “to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”.

    That’s right the DC Cartoon Character will be an honorary UN ambassador for gender equality. I guess the UN could not find a “real” woman so they went to the comics.
    All the world is a stage and there is no shortage of clowns.

  17. JoAnn – to answer your question about why Florida – it was close enough to make a difference. We now know, thanks to several news organizations, that if the Supreme Court had allowed a full recount of the entire state (the most fair method), using the “hanging chad” criteria adopted by over 2/3 of the states in this country (likewise for fairness), then Al Gore would have won Florida and the presidency.

  18. Trump is what Trump’s always been – a Brooklyn con man with a wealthy father and a celebrity ego.

    When Trump has been trumped he’ll go back to TV and irrelevance – but the country will be left with stunned Republicans and a basket of deplorables. What will happen to them?

    The worst possible outcome will be if they have redefined politics. So, what I’m hopeful of seeing first are Democrats behaving like responsible public servants.

    Then the next clue will be, do Republicans? IMO that’s a 50/50.

    Finally, have the deplorables been returned by the media to common ignominy – less likely than 50/50.

    If those ducks line up though Democracy will have been restored. If not though we will have much more work to do.

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