Democracy under attack

January 5, 2021

As the new session of Congress began on Sunday, I overheard two of my Republican colleagues, including one new member, strategizing about the upcoming charade that more than half of House Republicans are participating in to try to discredit the presidential election. Listening to them detail this assault on democracy left me with a sinking feeling and served as a profound illustration of the challenges that we face.

Not only do facts not matter to them, but the fundamental principle of democracy is clearly at risk when these people continue efforts to reverse a democratic election, even when the outrageous lies are disputed by their own long-established leaders past and present.

It’s important that Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger held firm against the latest outrageous example of Trump's interference in the election. It's all the more telling that Raffensperger is a Republican who presided over three separate recount efforts in Georgia. 

He is joined by former Speaker Paul Ryan, who warns that this is an extraordinarily dangerous, anti-democratic and as he said, anti-conservative act. I am also pleased that Liz Cheney, the third-ranking person in the Republican House hierarchy, sent a 21-page memo warning that this plan would set a dangerous precedent, enabling Congress to choose the president. But we should make no mistake. With well over 100 Republicans – more than half their total membership – signing on to Trump's effort to overturn the democratically elected president, this division exposes the consequences of Republican control. 

If Kevin McCarthy were Speaker, and the Republicans had the majority, there is no doubt in my mind that there would have been an unprecedented effort to overturn the election, and they may actually have succeeded.

There isn't even a pretext for supporting our democracy. There is no respect for law and for facts. Every single one of more than 60 court challenges, except a tiny minor decision, has ruled the Republican fantasy based on lies, misrepresentation. Tellingly, when Trump's lawyers have to be in court and tell the truth under punishment of perjury, the evidence of wrongdoing evaporates and we're left with conjecture and wishful thinking on their part. 

This all illustrates the high stakes for the future of our democracy, and how narrow a thread we have protecting it. 

It is the Democratic majority in the House and the new Joe Biden administration that's going to be responsible for us to get back on track. Our task is threefold. 

We must fight with all our strength to protect the integrity of the political process, calling out the lies and fighting efforts to undermine democracy whenever they emerge. Soon, Trump will have no claim to immunity. He should be investigated by Georgia and other states. If a crime was committed, he and his enablers should be arrested and prosecuted.

At the same time, we must continue our legislative work in the House, guided by facts and the priorities of the American people. From tackling the climate emergency to addressing the looming eviction crisis to defeating this pandemic, there’s so much to get done with the new president, and any Republican who wishes to deal with reality.

Third, we must redouble our efforts to deal with the majority of Americans who are willing to deal with reality. It's clearly not everybody, given the 25% of the people who are susceptible to Trump's lies, but there are people we must bring into the fold.

The stakes have never been higher, the tactics never clearer, and our job never more important.