Jim Scofield

Jim Scofield

We can see how fragile our democracy is. Donald Trump and much of the Republican Party supported what amounts to a coup. They refused to acknowledge the presidential election outcome, citing all sorts of false claims.

The physical and violent assault on the Nation’s Capitol on Jan. 6 when the electoral vote was being certified by Congress is the most outrageous and threatening moment. It was initiated by Trump who called upon his white nationalist supporters to march on the Capitol. 

The marchers were not very much resisted by the Capitol police guarding the Capitol building, some of whom were even friendly to the white invaders. The contrast in how the police treated the assaulters and how they treat groups such as Black Lives Matter and other protesters has been already noted by others.

It underlines how much Trump’s appeal, and even the Republican Party’s, depends on racism for its support. 

Whites, though often not consciously and openly racist, have been conditioned to view blacks as suspicious and dangerous. Trump has exploited this. Prejudices like this have cloaked Trump and Republican support for big business and wealth, their main promotion.

The Republicans used the Democratic Johnson Administration’s civil rights reforms of the 1960s to appeal, in reaction, to the white vote. 

The Nixon administration called it a southern strategy, since it enabled them to take over the more racist South politically, and appeal to racism in general, even in the North.

Usually American elections and democracy work because the losing candidate and party concede the election when the vote, even close ones, goes against them. Biden defeated Trump by 74 electoral votes and 7 million in the popular vote.

Even before the election Trump refused to say he would concede, questioning the legitimacy of the upcoming election in advance. After he was declared loser, Trump has brought all sorts of false claims, none of which could be validated by courts or recounts. He even claimed that he won by a landside. A large part of the Republican Party went along with these bogus challenges.

Many Republicans want to decertify the Biden election. 

A majority of Republicans in the House voted to decertify the Arizona and Pennsylvania electoral results.

Trump even asked Republican leaders in Georgia to find enough votes to overcome Biden’s lead there, certainly an illegal request.

The Republican Party has tried to suppress the vote all along, making it harder for citizens to vote, trying to eliminate eligible voters by purging the roles, limiting places to vote or their access, and by sending groups to the poles to challenge and intimidate voters. 

The Republicans fear that they lack a majority. Trump even said that no Republican would ever win if everybody votes. They wish to suppress the vote particularly in inner cities, where there is a heavier minority vote.

They tried to have dominate Republican legislatures in Pennsylvania, Michigan and other states where Biden prevailed substitute a slate of electors chosen by these legislators for the official ballot of electors. Anything but the official tally where Republicans trail.

If Trump and the Capitol invaders are not punished for their attempts to overturn an American election, our democracy will be in jeopardy to further attacks which may actually succeed.

Cooperation with the Republicans in Congress as Biden and others propose is a nice fantasy, which worked historically. But since Democratic Barak Obama’s presidential wins, the Republicans in Congress have tried to block all Democratic proposals. The moderate Merrick Garland Supreme nomination by Obama was blocked by the Republican Senate, which then upon the election of Trump jammed through as many one-sided federal court appointments as they could, and loaded federal offices with extremist Conservatives. 

Would you believe that such appointments were historically done cooperatively? They often were.

Trump and many conservative Republicans perpetuate alternative versions of “truth” on a number of major issues including elections, but also on the coronavirus, global warming and science itself. 

Their only foundation is narrow internet sites or groups not subject to factual verification.

The attempt at a physical coup at our nation’s Capitol on the vote count in the presidential election is a dire warning of how far they might go.

Jim Scofield is an associate professor emeritus at Pitt-Johnstown.

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