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February 2021

January 2021

The Deep Chasm in American Politics

The Deep Chasm in American Politics

                        Robert A. Levine

The current political divide in America is greater than at any time since the Civil War. In the presidential election of November 2020, Joe Biden received over 81 million votes with Trump accumulating over 74 million. Since the election however, Trump has insisted that he won by a landslide and that Biden stole the election from him. There were over sixty court rulings that declared Trump’s claims invalid, including two unanimously by the Supreme Court where he had appointed three of the nine members.

Trump also went to various state legislatures where the state’s citizens had favored Biden, trying to get the legislatures to overturn the results. No success anywhere. Trump begged and threatened Georgia’s attorney general to find eleven thousand plus votes for him so that he would win Georgia. But the Attorney General Brad Raffensperger insisted that the vote count was correct and could not be changed.

Bill Barr, the Federal Attorney General before he resigned, told Trump as well that the results of the election were right and could not be overturned. When Barr resigned, the acting Attorney General at the Department of Justice also refused to honor Trump’s requests to disqualify enough of Biden’s votes to make Trump the winner. And Vice President Pence declared to Trump that he could not change the vote totals when they were confirmed at the Capitol.

Yet with all the officials who told Trump that he lost the election, both Republicans and Democrats, he would not accept the outcome, insisting that the election was stolen. This led Trump to call his supporters to Washington and to have them march on the Capitol to prevent the voting totals from being confirmed. Tens of thousands of his base including militant white supremacists followed Trump’s instructions. They trashed the Capitol building in an insurrection, searching for members of Congress and Senators who they could kill because they would not make Trump president and looking to hang Mike Pence.

Perhaps it is not surprising that Trump’s most intense acolytes would come to Washington and follow his orders to break into the Capitol and hunt down his opponents. What is surprising is that Trump received 74 million votes in the election and even after he lost, most of his supporters believed that the election was stolen from him. The vast majority of these are not rational citizens, but members of a tribal cult, willing to accept anything that Trump says or does.

Not only are Trump supporters divided from the Democrats, but they are angry at establishment Republicans who they feel did not fight vigorously enough for Trump to remain president. And they want to primary the House members who voted with the Democrats to impeach Trump. These Trump acolytes are uninformed about the true results of the election and are willing to follow Trump wherever he leads, even if it means the end of democracy and the beginning of fascism in America. How do you change the minds of cultists who are uninformed and accept and obey their leader wherever he takes them? Unfortunately, democracy and freedom means nothing to them. They do not understand what Trump is offering.

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Uninformed Government Officials

Uninformed Government Officials

            Robert A. Levine

For years, I have believed the problems of democracy, especially in America were due to uninformed voters. These voters who knew little about the workings of government or what the positions of the candidates were on various issues, would elect officials who were often incompetent or venal. In addition, many of these officials who attained victory at the polls were also uninformed about how government functioned, basic civics, many political issues, history, geography and economics. And these people who were lacking in knowledge about the government and economics, were making and passing the laws that regulated American lives in a complex world.

I have written a book about democracy’s shortcomings (The Uninformed Voter) which was the result of voluminous research on American history and politics. However, I must say that uninformed or corrupt government officials, though elected by uninformed citizens, bear equal responsibility with voters for democracy’s failings. People without political or historical knowledge run for office because they realize that uninformed voters will not hold them to task and that they can get elected by telling voters what they want to hear, whether true or not. Trump is a prime example of a person who lacked the necessary information to govern appropriately, but had a high SQ (social quotient) and was able to connect well with uninformed voters to get himself elected.

We can examine Trump and his cohort later, but a newly elected senator, Tommy Tuberville, is another illustration of an individual who lacks basic knowledge of history and politics attaining high office. Prior to his Senate bid, Tuberville was a successful football coach at Auburn University and did not claim to have any special political expertise when seeking the Senate seat from Alabama on the Republican ticket.

However, in an interview on CNN recently, he revealed his ignorance regarding the Constitution, the structure of government and modern history. First of all, he wanted to change the date of the inauguration to make it safer, not aware that the 20th of January is prescribed as Inauguration Day in the Constitution. Secondly, he named the three branches of the federal government as the House of Representatives, the Senate and the Presidency, forgetting the judicial branch and that the legislative branch consisted of both the House and the Senate. Thirdly, he declared that World Wat II was fought to free Europe of socialism, apparently forgetting about the Nazis in Europe as America’s enemy during World War II. Is he really a senator?

Trump became president totally unprepared for the job with little knowledge of government structure or function, uninformed about the Constitution and the limits it imposes, and with scant information of American history. He picked advisors who were yes men as he did not like to be contradicted or to be reminded how ignorant he was. Throughout his presidency, he constantly lied about his actions and accomplishments topped by his lie about winning the 2020 presidential election. Unfortunately, millions of Americans were unable to differentiate between Trump’s lies and the truth, leading to an insurrection of his followers to try and maintain his presidency.

In 2020, Americans also elected two Congressional members who believe in QAnon conspiracy theories which are totally bizarre. And the majority of Republicans in the House have supported Trump’s lie that he won the election, showing that they lack basic information or are simply afraid of the president. Our democracy cannot survive if our citizens continue to elect officials who are uninformed about of government and are willing to lie to the American electorate. How do we get voters to meet their responsibilities to know about government and politics before they vote and to elect officials who are also knowledgeable about the jobs they will assume?

The Uninformed Voter can be purchased on Amazon or Barnes and Noble or through your independent bookstore


Trump Insurrection

Trump Insurrection

            Robert A. Levine

January 6th in Washington was shocking but not surprising. For months, President Trump had been stoking his supporters with claims that the presidential election in November was rigged and victory stolen from him. He provided no evidence to back up his claim, but repeating it over and over again in his speeches and tweets provided his assertion with credibility, particularly with his avid adherents. There was no question that millions of his supporters believed his declaration was real and that the election and the presidency had been stolen. In addition, there was affirmation from right-wing commentators and websites. Trump abandoned the tasks of his presidency for months while he tried to overturn the results of the election. The Covid pandemic was completely ignored by Trump while Americans died by the hundreds of thousands.

To the majority of Americans and the mainstream media it was clear that Biden had won the election handily- by over 7 million popular votes and the Electoral College 306 to 232. Yet a delusional and deranged President Trump continued to insist that he won the election by a landslide. In the two months after election Trump and his legal team lost over sixty lawsuits in various Courts contesting different facets of the election, including unanimously twice in the Supreme Court where he had appointed three of the justices. The Courts found nothing to suggest that anything illegal had occurred regarding the voting and that Biden had indeed won the election. Trump also tried to get Republican state Secretaries of State to “to find votes for him” so that he would win these states. No dice. And he blasted Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State Raffensperger and Governor Kemp as stupid and corrupt because they would not help him.

Trump also went to several GOP controlled state legislatures to try and convince them to change the vote totals in their states, but was rebuffed in each case. He claimed as well that the voting machines had been illegally set to help Biden, but this path led nowhere. Thus he reached a point where his efforts appeared futile. His last chance was Congress. But VP Pence said there was nothing he could do when he directed the voting for Biden’s confirmation, as his role was purely ceremonial. A majority of GOP House members and as many as twelve Senators said that they would object to swing state voting totals, agreeing with Trump that he had won. It appeared that Trump and these Republican officials were living in an alternative reality, as it was clear to the press and to state officials, both Republican and Democratic, that Biden had won the election by a landslide.

But it was too late to change the minds of Trump’s radical base who had already been convinced that the election was stolen by Biden. The nadir of Trump’s presidency and the outcome of his alliance with white supremacy groups and conspiracy theorists occurred on January 6th 2021 when legions of Trump supporters at his urging stormed and took over the nation’s capital. Speaking to the tens of thousands of his cult who had gathered in Washington, some armed, others not, Trump, Don Jr and Rudy Guilliani exhorted the gathering to march to the Capitol and be strong. On social media during the previous week, plans were being hatched by right-wing nationalists and white supremacists to take over the Capitol, so it was no secret what was coming. But law enforcement, particularly the Capitol police were totally unprepared, with a mob of white nationalist insurrectionists invading the Capitol and gaining control of the building, looting and destroying property and various personal materials of members of Congress.

Intelligence agencies and law enforcement should not have been taken by surprise by the hordes of white supremacists, given their announcements on social media. There had been talk of assassinating various officials including Vice-President Pence and of keeping Trump in the presidency. Many of these groups wanted to start a civil war in the country and felt that their actions might light the fuse. Interestingly, the insurrectionists initially were treated with kid gloves by the police, unlike the Black Lives Matter protesters months before. Though Trump and various Republican officials tried to distance themselves from the violent behavior afterwards, it was too little and too late.

White supremacists and militia groups who believe themselves entitled to run the nation are a continuing danger to democracy in the United States, with their positions supported by a percentage of law-enforcement and the military. Whether anything will change after their assault on the Capitol remains to be seen. Trump will continue to be a menace to American democracy even after he leaves the presidency, unless he is charged with insurrection and other counts and goes to prison.

The Uninformed Voter- buy on Amazon or Barnes and Noble