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As Republicans continue their unhinged push to overturn Joe Biden's victory, some Americans are breathing a sigh of relief that Trump's unprecedented election assault ultimately failed, and that a Constitutional crisis was averted. But another nightmare scenario looms large, not only for Democrats, but for our democracy.
That scenario looks like this: In a stunning setback for the GOP, Democrats Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff both pull off upset wins in the Georgia runoffs this week. Turning aside half-a-century of Republican dominance in the key Southern state, the Democratic wins mean the party effectively seizes control of the U.S. Senate, giving Vice President Kamala Harris the tie-breaking vote on any 50-50 votes.
But both Ossoff’s and Warnock’s victory margins, which have been confirmed via a recount, are tiny: Five thousand and nine thousand votes, respectively. Furious, the GOP declares war. Led by Trump, who insists Democrats "stole" the runoff elections, the Republican Party and the right-wing media noise machine unleash a relentless and brutal misinformation war, accusing Democrats of widespread corruption, and attacking Georgia election officials for covering up the concocted crimes.
After watching large portions of the Republican Party actively support Trump's delusional and dangerous attempt to steal a presidential election he lost by seven million votes, there's little doubt Trump would dispatch an army of lawyers committed to throwing out as many legitimate Georgia votes as possible. (A federal judge last month already denied a GOP attempt to make voting more difficult during the runoffs.)
In the light of that onslaught, will Georgia state officials, who stood up to the Trump barrage and endured death threats, have the fortitude to relive that personal nightmare? Or will they cave in to the relentless attacks on free and fair elections? And has the press learned anything over the last two months while covering the GOP's increasingly seditious, fascist attempt to overturn Joe Biden's election victory?
Indications are that the news media have not learned. On Sunday, while describing the move by 11 extremist Republican senators to challenge Biden's certified win this week, the New York Times suggested the GOP's push to demolish election integrity merely reflects "polarized politics of Capitol Hill." Reuters gently described the Republican strategy to invalidate tens of millions of vote as simply a "long-shot" challenge. Meanwhile, for weeks, the Beltway press falsely assured news consumers that Trump’s election fraud crusade was "performance art" and "bad sportsmanship," and that Republicans would never go along.
The crucial Georgia runoffs take place against a backdrop of Trump and the Republicans having already worked the election refs for months. By constantly hectoring and attacking them in a vicious effort to stop states from certifying their election results, the party made it plain it's willing to do anything to overturn ballot box results. Large portions of the GOP no longer honor election results where the GOP candidate loses, which is a recipe for democracy’s demise.
Specifically in Georgia, Trump wanted the Republican governor to overturn the election results by overruling the secretary of state, and by calling a special session of the legislature, which would then crown Trump the winner. "I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have," Trump told Georgia's secretary of state, during a stunning one-hour phone call this weekend where he demanded illegal actions be taken. "Because we won the state.”
Previously, Trump tweeted out conspiracy attorney Lin Wood's call for Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp to be jailed for not helping the GOP overturn the election results. (Lin has accused Kemp of being a "communist," and suggested Vice President Mike Pence be shot for the "theft of the election.")
Trump has personally berated Kemp in private phone calls, calling him “hapless.” “I’m ashamed that I endorsed him," Trump said in a Fox News interview. "We won Georgia by a lot,” Trump falsely claimed. "We have a governor, a Republican governor, that’s worse than a Democrat. He’s terrible.”
As a result, Kemp's family has for months been targeted for ceaseless harassment from Trump supporters, to the point where the governor's daughter began receiving "hate-filled messages about inane false conspiracies about the death of her longtime boyfriend…who was killed in a traffic accident this month in Savannah," the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Will Kemp and others be willing to withstand that kind of political assault again if the runoffs elections this week spark another Trump-led campaign to overturn Democratic wins? Today, more than 100 Republican members of the Congress have endorsed the idea that the November election wasn't legitimate as they continue to push false, malicious claims of voter fraud. For Georgia election officials, if the entire weight of the Republican Party soon comes down on them to overturn the election results of the Senate runoff races, will they be willing to risk their careers by standing up to the GOP?
“Stop inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence. Someone is going to get hurt, someone is going to get shot, someone is going to get killed. And it’s not right," pleaded Gabriel Sterling, a Republican and Georgia’s voting system implementation manager, during the Georgia recount weeks ago.
Instead of calling out those reckless attacks, more Republicans have jumped on the election "fraud" bandwagon, and are now angling to stop Biden's inauguration. It's a party that has walked away from nearly 250 years of democratic traditions in America.
"If we “move on”, the GOP will refuse to concede future elections, then judge-shop until they steal one," Jonathan Alter recently warned, as Trump pursued his maniac campaign.
What if they try to steal one or two in Georgia this week?
💻 GOOD STUFF:
University of Virginia media studies professor Siva Vaidhyanathan has a compelling new read in The New Republic, “Making Sense of the Facebook Menace”:
Despite all the noise and pressure from potential regulators, Facebook made only cosmetic changes to its practices and policies that have fostered anti-democratic—often violent—movements for years. Facebook blocked new campaign ads in the week before November 3, but because many states opted for early mail-in voting as they contended with a new spike of Covid-19 infections, the ban kicked in many weeks after Americans had started voting. Facebook executives expanded the company’s staff to vet troublesome posts, but failed to enforce its own policies when Trump and other conservative interests were at stake. Company leaders also appointed a largely symbolic review board without any power to direct Facebook to clean up its service and protect its users.>
🎙 FUN STUFF — BECAUSE WE ALL NEED A BREAK
Steve Earle, "Harlem River Blues"
Last August, iconic American singer-songwriter Steve Earle lost his son, Justin Townes Earle, who himself was a talented performer. Justin died from a probable drug overdose. Steve's long, illustrious career has been marked by multiple battles with drug and alcohol abuse.
To honor his son, Steve recorded and just released a new album featuring ten of Justin's songs, including his best known, "Harlem River Blues." It's a haunting and memorable Appalachian-flavored tale of personal struggle, made the all the more poignant given the Earle family history.
So Lord, I'm goin' uptown to the Harlem River to drown
Dirty water gonna cover me over
And I'm not gonna make a sound