The 2000 presidential election day ended without a clear winner between Texas Governor George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore. It all came down to Florida, which was too close to call. State law required close contests to go through a recount, and some counties handled it better than others.
Miami-Dade County was identified by Democrats as a county where Gore could pick up new votes in a recount. Although state law required full recount of the county’s 654,000 ballots, the Democrat-controlled canvassers instead focused on 10,750 ballots that had been rejected for one reason or another or where no clear pick could be identified for president.
Then the canvassers tried to determine “intent” using their own subjective feelings. For instance, if a voter had by and large picked Democrats for other seats, or if a canvasser could claim he saw an indentation where the chad could have been punched out for Gore, they would count that as a Gore vote. They didn’t recount Cuban-American precincts that overwhelmingly went for Bush and where he might pick up new votes.
The situation was bad enough for Republicans, but then the canvassers decided to move the process to a closed room and restricted media access to 25 feet away. Republicans were livid.
Rep. John Sweeney, a Republican congressman from New York, told a staffer to “shut it down” and dozens of Republican activists began causing a ruckus, pounding on the doors and shouting at the canvassers to stop their blatant attempts to push Gore into the lead. (The New York Times was forced to admit that Bush was the winner of the election and would have been named so even if Democrats had won some of their challenges.)
The media were outraged. “Right-Wingers Praise Antics of Bush Thugs,” wrote Joe Conason, calling it a “lawless… white riot” and incitement of a “mob.” President Bush and other leaders were criticized for not speaking against the “disgrace done in their campaign’s name.” What’s worse, Bush and his vice presidential nominee Dick Cheney joked about it at a local hotel. The mob “lent a touch of racial irony” to Republican criticism of Jesse Jackson’s protests in Miami at the same time.
Timothy Noah demanded action against Sweeney, for his role in the “siege of Miami” and “Miami mayhem,” which, he said, was “possibly” against the law. Time’s Tim Padgett wrote of the “Mob Scene in Miami,” calling it a “GOP melee.” He claimed that Americans were horrified to witness the “strong-arm tactics in what was supposed to be a showcase of democracy in action.” He quoted a Democratic chairman saying that the Republicans were using “Brownshirt tactics.”
The media attacks were written, not coincidentally, after the mini-protest was shown to have worked. Within hours, the Democrat-led board admitted that they couldn’t comply with state law by the Sunday deadline and stopped their attempted vote harvesting scheme. Sweeney was later nicknamed “Congressman Kick-Ass” by President George W. Bush.
If all this sounds similar to what some House Republicans did to Rep. Adam Schiff’s star chamber inquisition this week on Capitol Hill, that’s because it is similar. Showing up in mass at the location where Schiff runs his show, they sought access to House records that were denied to them by a Democrat majority intent on keeping the public in the dark, exposing the farce of what the media describe as an impeachment inquiry.
Lay Down or Fight
Republicans have two choices for how to handle the Resistance’s latest attempt to undo the 2016 election through dramatic means. They can sit there and take it, or they can fight it.
Some Republicans can be counted on to sit there and take it. This approach entails allowing Democrats to hold secret hearings where they handpick snippets to leak to a compliant media in service of setting a narrative. After the leaks are published by the compliant corporate press, these Republicans can impotently push back on some of it.
The other approach is to learn something from the previous few years. Trump’s surprising election was followed by attempts to delegitimize the Republican victory in 2016 by claiming it was due to “fake news,” desperate efforts to overturn the Electoral College, anti-Trump riots in Portland and D.C., the Clinton-directed claims that Russia “hacked” the election, the Russia collusion conspiracy theory, the release of the completely ridiculous dossier alleging that Trump was a Russian agent, the whisper campaign that the truth of Trump’s collusion was so bad that he might not be inaugurated. Yes, all this was before the inauguration.
Within minutes of the inauguration, the Washington Post published that the “campaign to impeach President Trump has begun.” The primary impeachment effort was the Russia collusion hoax, in which the Resistance embraced — or pretended to believe — a patently absurd theory that Trump is a secret Russian agent who stole the 2016 election in a brazen act of sedition.
Corporate media outlets published and broadcast story after story supporting this theory, which was later shown to have been invented and secretly funded as a Clinton campaign operation alongside the Democratic National Committee. Foreign policy was put on hold, key administration advisors were fired and sidelined, investigations into whether former Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions was a Russian spy were launched. Following the firing of the mendacious and corrupt James Comey as FBI director, the Resistance forced the launch of an intrusive and unstoppable special counsel probe, ostensibly headed by Robert Mueller.
Years later — after the special counsel had stymied the Trump administration, fed the collusion conspiracy theory, rung up Trump associates for process crimes, and destroyed the lives and bank accounts of many Trump associates — the probe ended with not a single American, much less a single American tied to the Trump campaign, much less Trump himself, found to have colluded with Russia.
Just Keep Throwing Crap Until Something Sticks
So then the goalposts moved once again. The argument went that Trump, by being upset that he was falsely accused of being a traitor who stole the 2016 election by colluding with Russia, might have “obstructed justice.” Team Mueller couldn’t say, exactly. A report — clearly designed to be an impeachment report — was transmitted to Congress to get things going.
But then Mueller testified before Congress and demonstrated that he had very little understanding of the probe that bore his name. Mueller’s role had been used by the Resistance to silence any criticism of the probe or the Russia collusion theory in general. As soon as it was obvious to the world that he had not really participated in the probe so much as been its titular head, the goalposts moved again.
Following a few returning visits to the 25th Amendment fever swamps, where Resistance members fantasize that they could get Trump’s cabinet to undo the 2016 election, or speculation that Trump might resign, they have landed on something something Ukraine.
Corporate media is trying to spin the Ukraine story as if it is something other than what it is. As if it were legitimate and quickly moving. Mike Allen of Axios opined of impeachment that “It’s remarkable how fast it has gotten off the ground. You can see how quickly the Ukraine phone call came out of nowhere to become the all-consuming impeachment topic — way faster than the impeachment inquiries into Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.”
Yes, this is a really good talking point if you ignore literally everything that has happened since November 8, 2016.
Again Republicans can either follow the Resistance, including Democrats and their corporate media supporters, or they can choose not acquiesce to the latest efforts to undo the 2016 election but somehow fight them.
Just as in 2000, the media screeching over Rep. Matt Gaetz and his colleagues fighting the secret efforts — which are literally being led by a man who lied to the public for years, falsely claiming he held evidence of Trump’s treasonous collusion with Russia to steal the 2016 election — is not an objection to what Gaetz and his colleagues did but anger that some Republicans have the audacity to fight back against what Democrats and the corporate media are doing. Complaints about decorum and process in 2000 were likewise complaints that Republicans weren’t sitting there and allowing Democrats to steal an election George W. Bush had rightfully won.
Using Bureaucracy to Overturn Elections Is Dangerous
Efforts to steal an election in 2000 or overturn one from 2016 should be met not with passive compliance but a righteous defense of the ballot box. And the Resistance members, whether in the bureaucracy, Congress, media, or the NeverTrump movement, need to know that they are playing with fire by trying to get around the ballot box.
Despite the belief of many career bureaucrats that elected political leadership works for them, our system is built on the idea that the permanent bureaucracy, such as it exists, works for the elected leadership, which in turn works for and represents the American public. While it is tempting to look at the three-year-long temper tantrum from the Resistance as being entirely about Trump, it’s about something much bigger. It is about whether our elected government serves the people or whether it exists to do the bidding of a cabal of unelected, taxpayer-funded bureaucrats and smug partisans of the corporate media.
At some point it won’t just be marches on Capitol Hill from a few Republican congressmen that the Resistance will have to deal with. It is unclear what the proper reaction to an unrelenting campaign to overturn the result of the 2016 election should be exactly, but they should stop expecting people to be as polite as they have been in response.
What we are facing now is not partisan warfare, it’s not a mystery novel, it’s not politics-as-usual. We are facing an attempt to tear down the foundations of our republic by corrupt, unelected bureaucrats who have decided the will of voters is subordinate to their will to power. It represents a fatal threat to our system of government, and if this coup succeeds — whether through impeachment proceedings, or through an election that (if the last three years are any indication) the other side is clearly willing to steal by hook or by crook — the nation will cease to be a constitutional, democratic republic.
This isn’t about Trump, or Republicans, or conservatives. It is about Washington needing to learn that political differences have to be settled at the ballot box lest they instead be settled with an undermining of our constitutional norms and institutions.