January 6th Was Just a Trial Run

America survived the coup. Next time, we may not be as lucky.

The United States is still reeling after a violent attack on the U.S. Capitol by radical far-right extremists in early January. Incited by the President, a large group of insurrectionists attempted to stage a coup to prevent Joe Biden from being certified the rightful winner of last November’s election. Let’s not mince words on what took place that day. Those mobs of people there were to overthrow democracy and potentially kill members of Congress and the Vice President.

It was not just Donald Trump that brought this upon us. The entire right-wing ecosystem has led to this moment by first, stoking racial resentment against the Presidency of Barack Obama with the Tea Party, paving the road to elect Trump. Once Trump was in office, the party and the media on the right failed to push back on the lies and misinformation coming out of the White House. Once you add in the dangerous conspiracy theories proliferating all over the internet, you have a deadly mix. Trump’s final stand, claiming that the election is a fraud without any evidence sent things over the edge.

The claim of fraud by the President could be defeated if every member of the Senate and House had simply stood up and told the truth — the election was fair and the results are valid. But as we saw in the Senate and House chambers later that night in the Capitol, the Republican party is already too far gone. Senator Hawley from Missouri decided to sign on to the objection that Pennsylvania’s results were not legitimate, even after his colleagues were seconds from potentially dying. Joining him, there were 146 other Republicans who also objected to at least one state’s results. They did this without any evidence of fraud or wrongdoing.

Prior to this election, objections to electoral results were extremely rare. But we are in a very different time now. The Republican party led by Trump has accelerated their disdain for democracy. We’ve seen the gerrymandering and the various suppression techniques in the past. Now, they have resorted to simply claiming fraud if they lose elections. I don’t expect any of this to change, even after the siege on the Capitol.

It won’t change because many Republicans understand that their policies are very unpopular and they routinely lose the majority of voters. Democrats have won the popular vote in seven of the last eight Presidential elections, and they consistently win more total votes in the House and Senate. However, the Republicans have managed to maintain power by an antiquated electoral college, severe gerrymandering, and a U.S. Senate that gives the same power to Wyoming as it does California.

The Republicans can only fight these numbers for so long. Rand Paul recently admitted out loud that Republicans would never win a majority again if we allow mail-in ballots and increased voter turnout permanently, saying, “I’m very, very concerned that if you solicit votes from typically non-voters, that you will affect and change the outcome.” Not a ringing endorsement for democracy.

Although Trump was the ringleader, we need to admit that the party as a whole is complicit. Just because some of them didn’t vote to overturn doesn’t mean they won’t the next time. This one just happened to be out of reach because the Democrats controlled the House and could prevent the steal. This is what has gone underreported in the media since the attack on the Capitol. The actions inside the actual chambers by members of Congress are almost as frightening as the actions of the people storming the Capitol. The Republicans exposed the weakness in our electoral system.

It’s possible that if six House races went a different way and Republicans won the House majority, Donald Trump would still be President with a wave of chaos ensuing. There is a process in place for Electoral College objections that we all witnessed play out. A debate will be had on a state’s results if one member of the Senate and one member of the House submit a written objection. This happened in the cases of Arizona and Pennsylvania. Luckily, the debates were had and the objections were voted down by all Democrats and some of the Republicans.

So, what would have happened if the objections were upheld? Those electoral votes are thrown out. And what if enough got thrown out that Joe Biden no longer had 270 electoral votes and neither did Trump? This is where things get scary. Here is a brief explanation from Ballotpedia:

If both chambers of Congress affirm the objection and the objection results in no one candidate receiving the necessary 270-vote Electoral College majority, the 12th Amendment dictates a congressional process for selecting a president and vice president. The House of Representatives votes to elect the new president. As a bloc, members of the House cast one vote per state, choosing between the three candidates who received the most Electoral College votes. The Senate votes to elect the Vice President, casting one vote per senator.

It’s that simple. You can override 158 million voters by making up lies about the election being rigged if you have majorities in the House and Senate. There is no doubt in my mind the Republicans would have carried out this strategy if they controlled Congress. The 147 objectors gave the game away by doing it with no real chance of it succeeding. If the Republicans control all of Congress in 2024, best believe they will go for this. They have given up on democracy and governing.

Democrats in Washington should not give any ground. If they continue to attempt to “compromise” with Republicans, it will only lead to a paralyzed, stagnant government and country. They should govern like they have the majority. There are a lot of fires to put out but we need to commit to putting them all out. We need electoral reform to strengthen and protect democracy. We need real Covid relief for millions of Americans on the brink. We need to tackle climate change to save our planet. We need student debt relief to unshackle an entire generation. We need Medicare for All to save lives. The more you do for people, the better chance we shut out Republicans, who are now a literal danger to our democracy. We may have held them off this time but without a real commitment to change, we could find ourselves right back here in four years.

M.A. in Applied Economics. I'm here to talk about economics, politics, and life. Follow me here and on Twitter @FrankLukacovic

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