Fix It–Or Forget It?

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.


  1. Keep in mind that those calling for action, violence and using the 2nd Amendment right to use as well as carry guns were among those in the Capitol Building on January 6th running away from the action they called for to save their asses. If – or WHEN – the Cold Civil War heats up to actual war, they will fall back on their 1st Amendment right of freedom of speech to remove themselves from any guilt.

    Gerrymandering (districting) has been screwed since slaves were considered a percentage of residents in southern states to allow more Representatives to be counted in Congress. Of course those percentage residents were not allowed to vote so fewer votes increased the numbers to maintain their state right to continue slavery. It is used now nationally to relegate minorities and low-income to areas designated for voter suppression; they (we in many cases) are still percentage residents losing their right to vote and any chance of representation in local, state and federal government.

    “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?)”

    The government had UNARMED members of the National Guard standing by in case of repeated violence in Trump’s 2nd rally last Saturday; I don’t see them using tanks and drones against Americans rioting on the words of Donald Trump or Madison Cawthorn or Mitch McConnell.

  2. I believe you are talking about law and order, and we have laws at the local level against assault and battery. We also have Homeland Security that is supposed to be addressing domestic terrorism, which is what Cawthorn and his ilk are suggesting. The problem is our government isn’t charging them as such, and they are refusing to arrest the instigators and financiers of such.

    So, the question is, why?

    I guess the same question could be asked about 9/11.

    If these belligerent souls were rounded up and tossed into prison for threatening elected officials, including organizers and financiers, don’t you think it would stop?

    It’s ironic, environmentalists are being treated as domestic terrorists for stopping oil-carrying pipes through their land, but the fascist thugs destroying pubic property and breaking the law is not. What gives?

    Although it’s a different subject (I could make several parallel examples), why did the state and federal government grant blanket immunity to corporations from lawsuits by employees or their survivors for ordering them back to work during a pandemic?

    My understanding is the government has immunity, but what did they (especially Republicans claiming there is nothing to fear) pass laws giving immunity to corporations?

  3. On a bright note, Adam Schiff has introduced a bill to codify some of those pesky little Constitutional provisions that we used to believe were adequate to protect our democratic republic. If 45 did anything in his four years in office, it was remind us just how much we have relied on the character of our “leaders”. Even those who weren’t very good, or smart, or moral didn’t sink as low as he.

    Changing the Constitution at this time would not be wise, since the crazies are in charge in more than half the states.

  4. In the late 50’s, I was a busboy in the largest cafeteria downtown Abilene, Texas. As I was clearing tables from the lunch rush, I was alone with much to do. But the news was on and the headlines focused on Kruschev and the threat to our way of life as he is seen reviewing a massive display of marching troops followed by huge tanks. It was called The Red Scare, even though more than 5,800 mies from Abilene. Never would I have thought then, as I do now, right here in our homeland, we have met the real enemy all along, and it is US.

  5. Biden, Pelosi, and Schumer have much to do and not much time to do it. Can legislation to save the Republic be passed despite Republican resistance? I don’t know but we won’t get too many chances to. In fact, this might be the last one.

  6. Peggy – most important warning should The Former (or his ilk) get elected in ’24: “Changing the Constitution at this time would not be wise, since the crazies are in charge in more than half the states.”

  7. I had read some years ago that there was a right-wing movement afoot to call for a second constitutional convention and that a number of states had signed on. I am nervous about opening that Pandora’s box because it could lead to a wholesale rewrite of the Constitution.

  8. Todd has given us the recipe for handling the crazies among us. Put them in jail for their murders and threats of murder of elected public officials (and I would add unelected public officials as well). We have laws outlawing such threats. Let’s use them. We are not powerless.

    The crazies are a decided minority among us. Even “cultural” Republicans are not in their corner when it comes down to banana republic power grabs versus a continuation of our (if tattered) democracy. Comprising the great majority, voters on both sides favor the ballot box to affirm our political choices over minority threats and intimidation.

    Todd is right; put ’em in jail. Free Speech? The First Amendment does not cover murder or a threat of murder. We have laws against assault and threats. Let’s use them, and if a First Amendment defense of Free Speech is asserted, let the courts decide in case to case findings whether the facts and law fits such assertion.

    Our collective shortcoming, if any, is that we do not prosecute those who threaten and intimidate with the same fervor such potential defendants spew forth daily with such threats and intimidation, and that includes members of Congress as well as the gun nuts, crazies and other Trump spawn. The best defense is a good offense. Let’s offend these revolutionaries.

  9. A few days ago I watched a program on TV. It had to do with the old guard GOP trying to save Liz Cheney among others from the wrath of The Trumpet and his gang. Bush the Younger and some others are trying to raise funds for Cheney.

    The people who were weighing on this strategy concluded that Cheney would have no trouble in acquiring campaign donations. Normally, this would be a winning strategy, candidates in the judgment of the Corporate Press determine viability by the amount of money they can raise. It does not make a difference if the candidate is necessarily good for America or not. The Oligarchs who have the money determine who is best for them.

    In the case of the New Trump GOP raising money has nothing to do with winning a GOP Primary. It comes down to the appeal a candidate has to the fringe element that has taken over the New GOP. The Trumpet’s endorsement is worth more than campaign donations.

    I have an old High School friend who is a stone cold Trumper who gave me an earful over the phone about all the weapons Biden left behind in Afghanistan and also that over 1.5 million illegal un-vaccinated aliens had crossed our Southern border and are spreading out like a plague on America. He E-Mailed me a picture of a large billboard that showed Biden dressed as a Taliban and read, “Making the Taliban Great Again”. He said something to effect we are not living in Mayberry any more. No reasoning with this type of person. He is the New GOP.

  10. Thank you so much for this article, Sheila. As I’ve said before, there are two things involved in elections: voting and vote counting. Democrats are too focused on minor changes to voting, changes that, in the end, won’t make much of a difference in turnout. Meanwhile, they are ignoring the much bigger problem on the other end – the vote counting (and certification) process. The Trump scheme to overthrow the 2020 election results is now being exposed. Attorney John Eastman even put the Trump scheme on paper, which everyone can now read. What Eastman proposed was to take advantage of ambiguity in the law to seize power.

    The reason why the scheme failed was because of a number of honest Republicans, committed to the Rule of Law, who wouldn’t go along with Trump stealing the election. Those folks are being purged from public service. They won’t be around in 2024. All the stuff that has happened since the election, including the phony state “audits,” that is just laying the groundwork for 2024 for Trump and his minions to scream “fraud” and disenfranchise millions of voters by ignoring their vote. This can be done by state legislatures ignoring the popular vote in their states or Congress ignoring state electoral slates it doesn’t like.

    Trump is not going to win at the ballot box, even with the advantages afforded to him by he Electoral College. He’s going to win the counting and certification process.

    Priority #1 for the Dems needs to be on fixing the Electoral Count Act (ECA). Sheila outlines the problem with language in the Act which basically purports to give Congress the power to throw out slates of electors based on unproven allegations of voter fraud. Republicans wouldn’t make such an allegation like that, would they? Of course, they would. They’re doing it now! The only difference is now, it’s too late. But in 2024, those claims of fraud won’t come too late.

    Democrats could frame changes to the ECA as making sure that Congress does not decide the next election, that the voters do. Emphasize the will of the voters. At least make the Republicans in Congress take a position for democracy or autocracy. They might even get the handful of Republicans needed to pass much needed changes. If they fail, at least they have publicized what is going on.

  11. On the bright side, that Northampton gentleman did give us a new an exiting right-wing talking point – “Never mind the data!”

    I think it’s the kind of thing the right-wing can really get behind. Someone should hurry that over to Tucker.

  12. So Mr. Ogden, your voice here is rather quiet. Are you going to rally your colleagues to DO something about this. Or are you going to write a book first and tell us long after the fact how despicable it was? What’s it going to be?

  13. So, we now have “In his statement, Trump wrote, ‘Everybody will be watching Arizona tomorrow to see what the highly respected auditors and Arizona State Senate found out regarded the so-called Election.'”
    This “highly respected” (falsity from the get-go) group actually added some votes for Biden, and The Empty Orange One deleted the comment!!

  14. So, we now have “In his statement, Trump wrote, ‘Everybody will be watching Arizona tomorrow to see what the highly respected auditors and Arizona State Senate found out regarded the so-called Election.'”
    This “highly respected” (falsity from the get-go) group actually added some votes for Biden, and The Empty Orange One deleted the comment!!
    The “lunatic fringe” is taking over the GOP, just as they allowed the Orange lunatic to take over the 2016 election.

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