Current Affairs

Facts Don't Matter

Facts Don’t Matter                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Robert A.  Levine

Facts still don’t matter. Perception does. Half a year after Donald Trump unwillingly stepped down from the Presidency, his lies and falsehoods are still accepted as facts by the vast majority of his acolytes. The most damaging of his lies for America’s democracy is his insistence that he won the presidential election and that it was stolen from him by Joe Biden. Because of this lie, a large proportion of Republican voters (between one third and two thirds depending on the poll) believe that Biden is an illegal president and that Trump actually won the election..

Some of Trump’s base believe that somehow Trump will be restored to the presidency in August, though it is unclear how this will happen. There is some talk of a civil war against the current government or other violent means for Trump to be reinstated. All of these ideas to destroy our democracy flow from Trump’s big lie that the election was stolen from him and that he should really be the president. All of his challenges in the courts and in different states have been rejected or shown to be false, but this does not stop Trump from denying the facts.

Hitler’s propaganda machine was based on the concept that if you repeatedly tell a lie, after a time it is accepted as a fact by a large proportion of the population, particularly those who are uninformed or uneducated. These are people who do not get their news from multiple sources to decide what is accurate and what is not. In general, they read very little, particularly about politics. They would rather stick to a media source that echoes their own beliefs even if they are untrue since they don’t know the difference. Often, they follow a tribal path in assessing what is real and what is not, taking their cues from friends, family and neighbors. In other words, they do not think for themselves.

On the other hand, Republican politicians at all levels know what is true and what is not but are afraid to say what is true. Instead, they are repeating and supporting the big lie because they are frightened of Trump’s power and worried that he will not back them when they run in their GOP primaries. Their cowardice and unwillingness to stand up to Trump aside from a few brave souls has completely distorted our democracy and made it harder for Joe Biden to get anything done. Actually, Mitch McConnell, the Republican Minority Leader of the Senate and Kevin McCarthy, the Republican Minority Leader of the House have stated that they will fight Biden’s agenda and don’t want him to be successful. Republicans do not care that Biden’s legislative successes will help America and they care more about their party than they do about the country. These are people who know what the facts are but deny them constantly to win Trump’s approval. For America to function well as a democracy, the two parties have to agree on the facts publically. They can react to them in different ways, but the facts are still the facts.                                                 www.robertlevinebooks.com                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Buy The Uninformed Voter on Amazon and Barnes and Noble


Party Over Country

Party Over Country                                                                                                                                                                                                     Robert A. Levine

Why does it seem impossible for politicians to understand that doing what is best for the country is more important than doing what is best for one’s political party? Truly patriotic Americans must know that sometimes one has to sacrifice one’s personal ambitions and aiding one’s political party if the necessary actions will injure America and its democratic system. While members of both political parties don’t seem to accept the notion of country over party in all instances, the Republican Party is overwhelmingly self-interested and unwilling to do what is best for the nation, using various excuses and placing the blame on the Democrats. Their use of misinformation and false information is fired off in a constant barrage to assuage their leader Donald Trump and to confuse and/or capture the American public.

Republican leaders are not ignorant and know that Democrat Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election by a wide margin. Yet virtually all Republicans insist that the election was stolen by Joe Biden and the Democrats, and that Donald Trump should really be president. At all the Trump rallies he emphasizes that the election was stolen and that Biden’s position is rightfully his. He uses these lies to fund raise and scam money from uninformed supporters who believe what Trump tells them. His rallying cry of “Stop the Steal” is repeated endlessly by his base and seen in bumper stickers, flags, advertisements and so forth. The fact that Republican leaders support Trump’s false claims provide them with some credibility although they are blatant falsehoods.

Trump’s personality of malignant narcissism may make him detached from reality to the point where he may believe his own lies about the election. But the remaining leadership of the Republican Party know these are lies and that Biden is the rightful president. Yet the vast majority of Republicans are willing to back Trump and his lies. They are afraid of incurring his wrath and being primaried by his supporters. Aside from Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, Republicans and their leaders are totally lacking in courage.

They must also know what their stances are doing to American democracy. A large percentage of American citizens have no faith in our electoral system and democracy itself, believing that elections can be stolen. There is also no faith in our political institutions doing the right thing for the nation, including Congress, the Courts and the presidency. This is all because Republicans are reinforcing what they feel is best for their party instead of what is best for the country. How can Americans turn this around? How can we restore faith in our government institutions and in democracy itself when it seems that the Republicans just do not care and keep propagating Trump’s lies?

A third party of moderate Republicans willing to stand by the truth together with centrist Democrats may be able to restore faith in democracy to the electorate. However, given the tribalism and the strong attachment of the far right and far left to their concepts of the truth, forming a centrist third party with any chance of winning is remote. Perhaps when the youth of America flood the voting booths, an opportunity for change will arise.                                                      www.robertlevinebooks.com                                                                                                                                                                         Buy The Uninformed Voteron on Amazon or Barnes and Noble


The Lazy, Hazy Days of Summer

The Lazy, Hazy Days of Summer                                                                                                                          

Robert A. Levine

Has the GOP reached a point yet where they accept that climate change is real and that America and all nations must do something about it before we are all baked in place. Temperatures above 100 degrees have become the norm intermittently in much of the nation, especially the Southwest, California and parts of the Midwest. In fact, in some of these areas, the daily temperature is over 110 degrees on a regular basis. Even high in the Rocky Mountains in Denver, the temperature has been above 100 degrees.

To make matters worse, many of the above regions are facing severe droughts, with minimal rainfall to replenish the usual sources. Lakes, reservoirs, ground water and places dependent on the Colorado River are all lacking water, to the point where some areas are considering rationing water supplies. Snowfall last winter was also sparse, so snowmelt is not replacing the water lost, as normally happens during the spring. In addition to making it tough for residents of these areas, it is making it impossible for farmers to grow crops and feed livestock. Some meteorologists believe that these dry spells are not a one year occurrence but have been part of a decades’ long drought that shows no sign of abating.

Because of the arid conditions and the heat, wildfires have been spreading at an alarming rate in a number of states. Residences, forests, businesses and farms have all been under threat with a great deal of destruction last year. We are still awaiting the start of the wildfire season this year.

Yes, climate change is real. Parts of Africa and the Middle East have also been hit by drought. In fact, the lack of water has been responsible for migration as much as war and conflict. Many African farmers cannot grow grain or raise livestock and severe famine is present in some regions because of the lack of rainfall. Parts of Southern Asia are also suffering from draught and accompanying famine.

Dealing with climate change is imperative for the world as we know it to survive. If the average temperature on earth continues to rise, we can expect more droughts, more famines, more migration and more wars. Fertility rates are also going down in the Western world, China, Japan and Korea. Many nations including the United States are not producing enough children to replace those who die. Whether or not this is related in some way to the weather is uncertain, but sperm are not as active when exposed to heat and this could possibly contribute to infertility.

Like the Covid 19 pandemic, climate change is an emergency and must be addressed by the world’s population before it is too late. In addition to taking immediate measures to reduce global warming, like reducing fossil fuel use, governments should be spending money on desalination plants to make sure that adequate drinking water supplies are available for everyone. If the process becomes cheap enough, perhaps the water produced from the oceans can also be used for watering crops and other necessary processes. But building these plants should be started at once, perhaps powered by sunlight or wind. Are any state of federal governments thinking about desalination?

www.robertlevinebooks.com                                                                                                                      

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How Can Republicans Sleep At Night?

How Can Republicans Sleep at Night?

            Robert A. Levine

The Republican Party in seeking power is at the threshold of overturning America’s democracy. After regularly losing the popular vote in most presidential elections in the last two decades, they want to insure that they will win all elections indefinitely by suppressing the votes of the Democratic portion of the electorate. They are aiming to win not only the presidency but control of the House, the Senate and most state legislatures and governorships by changing the rules for voting on a state level.

In states where there are Republican controlled legislatures and Republican governors, they are making it more difficult for minorities to vote because they generally support Democrats. The GOP controlled states are cutting down on voting days and voting hours for in-person voting and eliminating mail-in ballots. They will undoubtedly also increase gerrymandering when the results of the census are confirmed. Sunday voting after church is also being cut since this is the way many Black voters go to the polls. Special IDs are also being demanded in some states which are often hard to get, especially for working people.

On a Federal level, the law HR1 that guarantees voting rights and overrides state laws that suppress voting, is getting no support from Republicans in the Senate, having already passed the House. The Senate cannot pass HR1 unless they have sixty votes or more, or the filibuster is eliminated, neither of which have Republican approval. The GOP is content to allow the states they control to maximally suppress voting by people leaning Democratic, particularly minorities, even though it means that America is no longer a democracy with each person having one vote.

The electorate that favors Republican is both old and white, and at some time in the future will be a permanent minority. The state voting laws being passed by the GOP will be utilized in elections immediately. But it also ensures that old white people will still be able to dominate the country and elect their candidates even when they are a minority. Republican action are a sheer power grab but elicit a poor prognosis for democracy.

www.robertlevinebooks.com                                                                                                                         Buy The Uninformed Voter on Amazon or Barnes and Noble


Where is the GOP Going?

Where is the GOP Going?

                        Robert A. Levine 5-18-21

Since Trump took over the Republican Party in 2015, the question that needs to be asked is where is this political party headed?  What is their raison d’etre or reason for being? In the 2020 election, the Party ran without a platform or specific policy objectives. The only factor that bound members together so it could be called a party was its support of Donald Trump. That would be fine if Trump espoused a specific ideology, but he doesn’t. He is defined by populism and nationalism, but his allegiance appears to be primarily to people of wealth and perhaps how to help them get more. Though he is thought of as a populist and is adored by a large segment of the population, during his term in office he did little to improve the lives of ordinary Americans. He seemed to be mainly concerned by how to make his own life better along with those of his family and friends.

Having lost his bid for re-election, he still claims that he won and that the election was stolen from him, mostly because he does not want to be labeled as a “loser”. To obtain Trump’s support in future elections, the overwhelming majority of Republicans have backed his claim that the election was stolen though they all know this is a boldfaced lie. But few Republicans want to cross him in any way. Though he is out of office and does not have the bully pulpit any longer, he is still the leader of the GOP and all of its members must pay fealty to him or suffer the consequences. Aside from loyalty to Trump, the Republicans still have no specific policy proposals on which to run a campaign. They do oppose virtually every idea that the Democrats have brought up and tried to make into law, but opposition alone is not enough to define a political party. They need specific proposals that they are trying to make law, but thus far have not come up with anything concrete. Recently, it appears that some Republicans in the Senate may be willing to compromise with the Democrats over infrastructure plans. But this still does not a party make. They are also willing to have their members support conspiracy theories like QAnon and people like Marjorie Taylor Greene

The Republicans who oppose Trump for the most part call themselves conservatives, but they also have not come forth with a specific platform they can stand on. They are anti-Trump and anti-Democratic Party, but what are they for. What new laws would they like to see enacted? So Republicans of all stripes, pro-Trump and anti-Trump appear to be lacking goals and ideas that they can trumpet to their base and independents to help them get elected or re-elected. Are there any Republicans who know where their Party is going aside from how it relates to Trump? And outside the Party, do the Democrats or Independents know what Republicanism stands for at this point in time?

www.robertlevinebooks.com                                                                                                                                  

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QAnon and Other Conspiracy Theories

QAnon and Other Conspiracy Theories

                        Robert A. Levine 5/3/21

It is truly amazing how many Americans accept QAnon and other conspiracy theories as truth and spread various conspiracies over the internet, through social media and by word of mouth. While conspiracy theories did not begin with Trump’s presidency, he formulated many of them and spread others, before, during and after his term in office. Even before he lost the election in 2020, he complained that the election was rigged and that if he did not win by a huge margin, Americans should realize that the election was fixed.

Then afterwards, he has continued to claim that the presidency was stolen from him by the Democrats even though multiple recounts and the courts have reinforced the fact that he lost fair and square. Conspiracies regarding the voting machines have also been found to be false and re-checks have found that the machines worked perfectly well. Trump’s lies about the stolen presidential race have heightened his adherent’s willingness to accept various other conspiracies theories with or without Trump’s imprimatur.

QAnon is the mother of all conspiracy theories, seemingly gaining more advocates every day though its beliefs strike many people as totally bizarre. Even some people in foreign countries accept some of the ideas that QAnon is spreading. Its concepts began prior to the 2016 election when it claimed that a pizza parlor near Washington was the headquarters for a Democratic pedophile ring run by Hilary Clinton. QAnon said that Democrats were pedophiles and were kidnapping American children to satisfy their pedophile members. There was absolutely no truth to this claim but millions of Americans believe it. Apparently, there is some leader of QAnon called Q who periodically comes out with proclamations advising his acolytes what to believe and what to do. A few years ago, one of his followers shot up the pizza parlor hoping to free the children that supposedly were imprisoned there but found nothing. That’s because there was nothing and QAnon is a total hoax that numerous Americans consider real.

Many Americans believe that climate change is a hoax, that the corona virus pandemic does not exist and that vaccines are an attempt to control your body with implanted chips installed whenever you get a vaccine shot. The pandemic and the chips placed in one’s body are blamed on Bill Gates and George Soros who want to control the world. Conspiracy theories seem to be mainly accepted by Republicans

One wonders how so many Americans could be so naïve and gullible to accept the conspiracy theories often born on the internet and spread without any evidence they are valid. Would anyone like to buy a bridge I have for sale?

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Our Recurring Problem with Guns

Our Recurring Problem with Guns

                        Robert A. Levine 4-21-21

How can America solve its problem with guns? Our nation has more deaths and serious injuries due to guns than any other nation in the world. In fact, we probably have more gun deaths than all the other nations in the world combined. Recently, we have seen mass killings by guns on at least a weekly basis. Yet we can’t seem to get a handle on the gun dilemma and cut down on gun deaths. Perhaps that’s because we have more guns in civilian hands than any other country, greater than our population itself. Estimates are that there are about 400 million guns in America.

The obvious way to cut down on deaths due to guns is to cut down on the number of guns in civilian hands. However, even the thought of that action enrages gun owners who point to the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution as the basis of their right to have guns. While the 2nd Amendment is open to interpretation, we will not address that here. There are other ways to approach this problem that the majority of Americans seem to agree on.

Enhanced background checks are first and foremost and there are no valid reasons why these should be thorough and intrusive. Any criminal history, domestic abuse, suicide attempts and so forth should prevent a person from owning a gun. Civilian gun ownership should be approved for one of two reasons- for hunting, or protection in the home or on a dangerous job. This means that automatic or semi-automatic weapons should be banned. These are weapons of war and there is no reason they should be owned by civilians. Gun buyers should also be at least 21 before being allowed to buy guns.

For ten years, 1994-2004, assault weapons were federally banned, supported by Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter among others. Enhanced gun clips should also be banned, forcing people to reload after firing a number of shots. The majority of our population favors all the measures mentioned above. Though some states have passed restrictions on gun ownership, nearby states may have no limitations and buyers travel to these open states to buy guns. Or they get them at gun shows or over the Internet which are not tightly monitored.

Though the measures above are all common sense, the NRA has been opposed to any restrictions and the GOP in Congress and the Senate is afraid of the NRA. They should no longer be as the NRA is a bankrupt organization with little remaining power. Now is the time to get a bipartisan gun law passed in Congress to cut down on civilian gun deaths.

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Voter Suppression- Who Wins

Voter Suppression- Who Wins

            Robert A. Levine

If the Republicans cannot win fairly, they will do anything to suppress groups of voters who tend to support the Democrats. This is short term thinking for down the road, the minority groups whose votes they are trying to eliminate will be in the majority and will vote regularly for the Democrats. At the moment, many minority voters are mixing their votes and some are backing Republicans. This is not the time to alienate minorities and drive them to the Democratic Party which voter suppression will do.

Currently, in state legislatures across the land that are controlled by Republicans, hundreds of laws are being introduced to suppress voting by minority groups that provide support for Democrats more than Republicans. But this support of Democrats was starting to change in the 2020 elections where Latino men and women and Black men gave significant percentages of their votes to Republicans. Suppressing the votes of these groups by making it increasingly difficult for them to vote is not going to endear the GOP in the minds of these voters and in the long run will probably dissuade Democratic voters from switching.

In addition to blatant gerrymandering expected after the census results are released, Republican state legislatures are shortening the time devoted to early voting, eliminating absentee and mail-in voting without a good excuse and proof of a problem, demanding accurate IDs when voting in person and limiting what can be used, cutting down on the boxes where absentee votes can be dropped off, comparing signatures very carefully on IDs versus forms that allowing voting, shortening the hours on voting day, cutting down on the number of places to vote, situating voting stations in white neighborhoods that are difficult for minorities to reach, preventing people from collecting the ballots of older or disabled individuals (ballot harvesting) because it is difficult for these voters to hand in their ballots. Any measures that will cut down on minority voting will be considered by GOP controlled legislatures.

While it is likely these moves may decrease minority voting temporarily, there are groups that have formed that will transport these voters to the places where they can vote. They are also being helped to fill out the necessary forms. Voters have long memories and as minorities attain majority status, they will remember how the Republicans used underhanded methods to lessen the importance of their votes or made it difficult for them to vote at all. In the long run, the GOP will pay for their actions.

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Creating a Third Party of the Center

Creating A Third Party of the Center

Robert A. Levine

            “It must be realized that there is nothing more difficult to plan, more uncertain of success, or more dangerous to manage than the establishment of a new order of government; for he who introduces it makes enemies of all those who derived advantage from the old order.”

            Niccolo Machiavelli- The Prince [i]

            The time has come for a seismic shake-up of America’s political system. The nation’s current political parties are corrupt and self-serving, tethered to lobbyists, special interests and their own partisan bases, and unable to govern productively. To bring about change, a permanent third party of the center is necessary to recalibrate the political equation and start the country on the road to reform. This party must not be dependent on PAC financing but derive direct funding from its supporters. The Republican Party is already splitting three ways, with supporters of Trump, true conservatives and moderates. Trumpists have even considered forming their own third party. The Democrats are split between leftists and moderates.                       

The idea of a permanent third party for America is not new, the reasons that argue for its creation having existed for many decades. Indeed, there have been a number of unsuccessful attempts at gestation, resulting in stillbirths or early demises in infancy. Currently, disillusionment with the government and dismay about the ability of the established political parties to fix matters remain at a high level. Unless the nation is able to accomplish a meaningful revision in the way it is governed, the United States is destined to decline. To effect the required metamorphosis, a permanent third party is needed that values moderation, pragmatism and compromise.

Though revolutionary changes in political systems and mass social movements are usually initiated by the left or the right, this revolution should arise from the center, a protest against America’s two entrenched parties. John Avlon in his book Independent Nation remarked- “Centrism frees voters from the false dichotomies that dominate American politics by offering them a third choice between the rigid extremes of the left and right, a commonsense path that acknowledges the inevitability of change while never straying far from fundamental American values or founding principles… Centrism is the most effective means for achieving the classic mission of politics: the peaceful reconciliation of competing interests. Extremists and ideological purists on either side of the political aisle condemn compromise. But inflexibility either creates deadlock or dooms a cause to irrelevance.” 

A Pew Poll in May of 2019 had 38 percent of Americans identifying as politically independent. An NBC News poll in 2013 had 51 percent of Americans considering themselves as moderates, independents or centrists. Most surveys have the percentage of independents between these two numbers. But voters are accustomed to voting for either Democrats or Republicans and starting a new centrist party that is competitive will not be easy. With the current parties holding a duopoly of power, state and federal laws place barriers in the path of any upstart that might challenge their control. And aside from the legal obstacles, there are also emotional impediments that must be overcome in America’s citizenry to allow a new third party to gain traction. But a new permanent third party of the center can be viable, with the opportunity to realize its goals and win both local and national elections. There are new tools and transformative technologies available for an interloper to level the playing field with the two established behemoths, even though their deep pockets are constantly being refilled by the lobbyists and special interests.

The main asset this new entity will have in its favor is the dissatisfaction of Americans with the political climate. There is a vast body of citizens in America who do not participate in the political process or vote in elections because they feel their votes are inconsequential. Some of these men and women can form the base of a new party, along with independents and centrist Republicans and Democrats who hold their noses when they go to the polls, casting ballots because they feel it is their obligation as citizens. These people might flock to the banner of a political organization that pledged to run incorruptible candidates and would try to end the ideological bickering that has precluded action on so much necessary legislation. To be successful in this insurrection, the new party must persuade Americans that it is a real alternative to Republicans and Democrats, will have staying power and will not fold after one election cycle. It must be able to convince average citizens that it is worthwhile for them to cast their ballots for an untested political upstart that has a vision for a new way of governing. And if it is able to gain credibility among the electorate, it will make centrist politicians who are on the fence more willing to commit themselves to this intriguing new player.

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New People, New Parties, New Infrastructure

New People, New Parties, New Infrastructure

                        Robert A. Levine

America is in crisis and undergoing a steep de­cline. Covid has taken the lives of half a million people and battered the economy. Budget deficits and national debt are climbing. The nation’s infrastructure is old and crumbling while much of Europe and Asia enjoy modern highways and bridges, bullet trains connecting their main cities, gleaming new airports, and broadband connections to all sectors of their population. If America is to compete in this world and maintain its position at the top, its citizens will have to acknowl­edge the need for sacrifice and pain, will have to accept higher taxes on the wealthy and more spending on infrastructure. Americans will have to study harder and work longer, knowing that their struggles will allow democracy to flourish and that their chil­dren and grandchildren will reap the rewards. 

In past times, Americans were willing to sacrifice for the good of the nation and the generations that would follow. Sacrifice is again needed. But we need something more. The two-party system has not been working as the parties collude to maintain their hold on power, reinforcing the need for a permanent third party. This could come from the right but is needed from the center with the extreme left and extremists on the right kept at bay. The moderate Democrats and centrist Republicans should join together to give citizens a better option when they cast their ballots.

In America’s formative years, professional politicians were not involved in the creation of its defining documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, nor responsible for governing. These duties were managed admirably by public-spirited citizens: farmers, lawyers, and businessmen, physicians), who wanted to participate in the noble experiment of democracy. Perhaps what America needs now are fewer career politicians and more ordinary citizens like our Founding Fathers to become en­gaged in the processes of government and democracy. When lobbyists and special interests subvert this rela­tionship and the people’s desires are ignored, the system is failing. New parties and new participants are needed.

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What Does Trump Truly Believe

What Does Trump Believe?

                        Robert A. Levine, M.D.

The question that needed to be answered which the impeachment proceedings did not do, was whether Trump truly believed that he won the election, notwithstanding all the evidence to the contrary. If he actually believed this fantasy he should not have been impeached on the basis of his being mentally incompetent. A person shown to be crazy cannot stand trial of any sort, given his or her lack of understanding.

On the other hand, if Trump realized that he lost the election and was claiming otherwise to arouse his base, generate support and financial resources, then he was indeed a candidate for impeachment, having used the bully pulpit of the presidency to spread this outrageous lie that inspired treasonous actions. And Trump himself was guilty of treason along with the people who stormed the capital on his behalf.

In either case, Trump is unfit to run for office again. Either he is crazy or guilty of treason in claiming that he won the presidential election. Both of these states should keep him from any position of responsibility in the government or otherwise. Unfortunately, as mentioned, the impeachment hearing did not provide an answer as to Trump’s state of mind in claiming that he won the election.

The Democrats and Republicans assumed that Trump was mentally competent and aware that he lost the election. But how do we know this for certain. Before Trump’s impeachment, he should have had a thorough examination by a panel of psychiatrists to determine whether he truly believed he won the election or that he is claiming that he won for his own political ends.

The determination of his mental state is of utmost importance and his impeachment trial should have been delayed until a psychiatric evaluation was complete. Given its importance, a panel of top psychiatrists should be involved in the mental evaluation of Trump rather than a single psychiatrist.

Of course it is possible that Trump could deceive even a multitude of psychiatrists for certain reasons, either acting consciously or unconsciously. However, would Trump want his supporters to consider him insane or a traitor?

It is somewhat surprising that the House impeachment managers did not address this dilemma and ask for a psychiatric evaluation prior to starting the impeachment proceedings. It is quite possible that Trump would have refused psychiatric consultation, insisting that he was fully mentally competent. If that is the case, then it would appear that he knows that he lost the election and was trying to overturn the results by fomenting an insurrection. In other words, he would have to be considered a traitor.

There may be reasons in Trump’s mind on both sides of the equation to either claim that he was the winner or express the realization that he lost.  The nation deserves to know Trump’s state of mind on the issue of whether he won or lost the presidential election. Prior to any further criminal or civil proceedings regarding Trump’s incitement of the capitol insurrection, Trump should have a psychiatric evaluation to assess whether or not he is mentally competent.

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