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Time for change

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A Common Thread in Recent U.S. Presidential Elections Where the Popular Vote Winner Didn't Win

There have been five Presidential elections in U.S. history where the popular vote winner failed to win the election. Because that was the case in two of our last five elections (2000 and 2016), this has spurred a good deal of interest in abolishing the Electoral College. I don’t disagree with abolishing the Electoral College. However, the Electoral College seems to have been the main culprit in only one of the five discordant Presidential elections. There is another issue, connected with the most recent two discordant elections, which appears to be far more important than the Electoral College in undermining our democracy. Whether or not the Electoral College gets abolished anytime soon, I fear that failure to address that issue very soon could be catastrophic for our country, with Trump winning re-election in 2020.

Election of 1824 – Decided by U.S. House of Representatives

The Presidential election of 1824 was ultimately decided by neither the popular vote nor the Electoral College. The ultimate winner of that election, John Quincy Adams, won only 31% of the popular vote, while Andrew Jackson won 41% of the popular vote and also won more Electoral Votes than any of the other three candidates. But since no candidate won a majority of Electoral Votes, the election was thrown into the House of Representatives, as required by our Constitution, and Adams prevailed. I have great admiration for John Quincy Adams, because after losing his bid for re-election four years later (to Jackson), he won election to Congress two years after that, where he soon became the strongest anti-slavery voice in Congress until he died 17 years later, at his desk in Congress. But surely he didn’t deserve to win the 1824 Presidential election based on the election results.

Election of 1876 – Decided by special “Electoral Commission”

Likewise, the initial results in the election of 1876 showed alignment between the popular vote and the Electoral College. That election was decided almost four months after Election Day 1876, by a special “Electoral Commission” that was convened because of allegations of foul play – specifically voter suppression of African American voters – by three Southern states (FL, LA, and SC). The Democratic candidate, Samuel Tilden, won the initial popular vote by 51% to 48%, and also won the Electoral College by 19 Electoral Votes, with an additional 20 Electoral votes that Tilden preliminarily won being disputed (19 of the 20 disputed votes were disputed because of alleged voter suppression). Following much negotiation and deliberation, the Electoral Commission eventually gave all 20 disputed Electoral Votes to the Republican candidate, Rutherford B. Hayes, who thereby won the election by one Electoral Vote. The decision of the Commission was in large part determined by a deal that ended the Reconstruction Era, thereby terminating the federal protection that the freed slaves had enjoyed following their liberation during and soon after the end of the Civil War. The ending of Reconstruction inaugurated a very long era of eradication of voting rights and violent terrorism against the freed Southern slaves and their descendants.

Election of 1888 – Decided by Electoral College

The election of 1888 was the first Presidential election, and the only one ever that was not marred by judicial interference (See discussion of the 2000 and 2016 elections below), with discordant results between the popular vote and the Electoral College results. The incumbent Democratic candidate, Grover Cleveland, won the popular vote by 0.8% but lost in the Electoral College to the Republican, Benjamin Harrison. Cleveland ran against Harrison again in 1892, and that time won both the popular vote and the Electoral College.

Election of 2000 – Decided by the U.S. Supreme Court

As with the Election of 1876, the Election of 2000, although technically determined by the Electoral College, was actually determined by the decision of a judicial body – in this case the U.S. Supreme Court. In what is widely considered one of the three worst and unjustified (not to mention corrupt) Supreme Court decisions in U.S. history, the Florida recount of the vote was stopped cold by the Supreme Court, thereby handing the Presidency to George W. Bush. The Democratic candidate, Al Gore, had won the U.S. popular vote by 0.5%, but the Supreme Court decision gave Florida and its 25 Electoral votes to Bush by the narrowest margin ever (537 votes) in a state that determined the winner of a Presidential election, giving Bush a four vote Electoral College victory. The cheating in this election was too widespread and complex to discuss here, but suffice it to say that future analyses showed beyond a reasonable doubt that Gore would have won if the counting hadn’t been stopped prematurely by the corrupt Supreme Court decision.

Election of 2016 – Trump campaign squelches recount of highly suspicious vote counts in five states

That brings us to the most recent Presidential election with a discrepancy between the popular vote and the election winner. That is the most important part of my discussion in this post, because if we fail to learn from it and fail to take corrective action, I fear that the results will be repeated in 2020. I have heard a good deal of argument that the Presidential Election of 2016 shows why the Electoral College must be abolished. As I noted above, I don’t disagree that the Electoral College should be abolished. But I doubt very much that that will happen prior to the 2020 election, and there is another, more important lesson that we can learn from the 2016 fiasco, which could allow us to take successful preventive action in time to prevent a repeat of 2016.

As in 1876 and 2000, judicial decisions likely played a critically important role in 2016. Based on pre-election polls, Trump won five states in 2016 that he was widely expected to lose (FL, NC, MI, PA, WI). More important, exit polls showed Clinton winning four of those states (FL, NC, PA, WI) and in a virtual tie with Trump in Michigan. In three of those states (NC, PA, WI), the differences between the exit polls and the official results were beyond the statistical margin of error. In summary, Clinton won the U.S. popular vote by 2.1%, while losing 5 states she was expected to win, by very small margins, with exit polls showing she should have won at least 4 of those states. The margin of the Trump victory was less than 1% in three of those states (MI, PA, WI), a very rare occurrence in U.S. history. Winning any three of the states with suspicious results, or even various combinations of just two of those states would have given Clinton an Electoral College victory.

Because of these highly suspicious circumstances, one of the 2016 losing Presidential candidates, Jill Stein, citing “compelling evidence of voting anomalies” and data analysis indicating “significant discrepancies in vote totals”, and urged by tens or hundreds of thousands of American citizens, attempted to raise money for vote recounts in all 5 states with suspicious results. She quickly raised $4.5 million for the recounts, but it was only enough money for recounts in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

The Trump campaign then fought her efforts to obtain recounts in those three states. The end result was that state courts in Pennsylvania and Michigan supported the Trump campaign’s effort to block the recounts, while a Wisconsin court agreed to a recount, but specified that individual counties could elect to simply “recount” votes by re-running the same machines that provided the original count, rather than do hand recounts of paper ballots. This invalidated the whole recount because any serious errors that might have occurred in the machines were likely limited to those counties that elected to recount the votes by machine – which was the case in about one half of the Wisconsin counties.

What went wrong in 2016, and how can we prevent a repeat?

I have a critically important question about all this. Why didn’t our intelligence agencies get involved in this to demand or at least to strongly advise hand recounts in the 5 suspicious states? Our intelligence agencies had already determined that Russia had conspired to interfere in this election in favor of Trump. They also knew that, in accordance with that, Russia had hacked into our electronic voting databases in many if not all 50 states. And surely they knew that our electronic voting system is widely known to be highly vulnerable to hacking.

They did not know how successful, or what the specific results were of the Russian hacking into our state electronic voting databases. They did claim that they found no evidence that the hacking into our electronic voting databases altered the ultimate results of the election. But neither did they provide any evidence that the election results were not altered through electronic manipulation of our vote. When I hear this issue discussed by our national news media, they often seem more concerned about causing a loss of confidence in our Election system than in an actual altering of our election results. It’s as if electronic manipulation of national election results is a taboo subject.

By far the easiest and most accurate way to determine whether Russian (or other) manipulation of our electronic voting altered the results of the 2016 election would have been to simply recount the paper ballots for the suspicious states. Why didn’t our intelligence agencies demand this? This is an issue of such great importance that it shouldn’t fall to private citizens to raise huge sums of money to recount highly suspicious elections. This responsibility should fall to our federal government, and we should have laws that make this a high priority – not to be blocked by court decisions sponsored by the “winning” candidate. Yet apparent electronic manipulation of our vote has occurred several times in national elections in the 21st Century (with the more conservative candidate always the beneficiary) – with no meaningful hand recount of paper ballots invoked to dispel widespread suspicion. The circumstances surrounding the 2016 Presidential election SCREAMED to have our votes recounted, and yet our country sat by and allowed Donald Trump to block efforts to get to the bottom of this.

There is a fair amount of talk in our country about the need for all of our voting machines to be associated with a paper trail. (As of April 2019, twelve U.S. states still used paperless electronic machines as the primary voting machines in at least some jurisdictions.) However, I have never heard our mainstream news media even mention the fact that, even when paper trails are available they are rarely if ever used in a valid manner to conduct recounts in suspicious national elections, except when the margin of victory is extremely thin, as specified by law in some states. As noted by the Brennan Center for Justice, “Paper records of votes have limited value against a cyberattack if they are not used to check the accuracy of the software-generated total to confirm the veracity of election results”.

It is astounding and deeply disturbing to me that this was not done in the 2016 Presidential election, despite the highly suspicious circumstances AND the findings of our intelligence agencies that Russia had interfered in that election in behalf of Donald Trump and also had access to some unknown numbers of our state electronic voting databases. What kind of country is it that allows such things to occur and won’t even conduct recounts of paper ballots in an attempt ascertain the status of the integrity of our Presidential elections?

We’d better be prepared for a repeat of 2016, with plans for an aggressive response, including a mandatory recount of paper ballots in states with suspicious results, if we want to reduce the likelihood of another election catastrophe in 2020.
Posted by Time for change | Sun Oct 6, 2019, 02:05 PM (9 replies)

The Great Need for Impeachment of Donald J. Trump

I am terribly concerned about the reluctance of the Democratic House leadership to pursue Trump impeachment vigorously and expeditiously. The only potentially good reason not to do so is the theoretical political consideration that it could impair Democratic chances in 2020 of winning the House, Senate, and/or Presidency, as well as various state and local offices. Thus, hopes and plans for the Democratic Party leadership are to beat Trump and his Party at the polls in 2020, with impeachment being a much less important objective, if it’s any objective at all.

But there are several problems with that line of reasoning. First and foremost, our intelligence agencies have told us in no uncertain terms that Russia is planning again to interfere with the 2020 election on behalf of Trump and his Party. Nobody knows all the specifics of how they are planning to do so, or how likely are their chances of success. We know that they are again planning to conduct a social media campaign to influence U.S. voters. More ominous in my opinion is their potential to hack into our electronic voting machines and thereby manipulate the vote count. We know that our voting machines are vulnerable to such manipulation, and we know that Russia will attempt to hack into and manipulate them. The only question is how successful they will be in doing so.

Yet, Trump steadfastly refuses to acknowledge that this is a significant problem, and more important, he clearly is taking no steps to combat it. While our Senate refuses to even consider taking steps to combat this great danger to our democracy, and even repeatedly blocks Democratic efforts to do so, Trump, while providing lip service to the need for election security, refuses to exert any leadership in urging his Republican Senate to do anything about it. That in itself should be considered an impeachable offense. And it should require no further investigation to establish. The evidence for Russian interference in our election was extensively documented in Part I of the Mueller Report, which clearly stated that the interference was “welcomed” by the Trump administration. It is further extensively documented by U.S. intelligence agencies. If refusal to address this grave danger is not considered an impeachable offense, then our democracy has little chance of surviving much longer.

How to achieve victory at the polls despite Russian interference

If no steps are taken to combat Russian interference in our next election, then our best and perhaps only hope is a massive influx of Democratic and other anti-Trump and anti-Republican voters to cancel out whatever election manipulation the Russians are successful in achieving.

But Democratic leadership in the House apparently fears that an unsuccessful attempt at impeachment, or conviction in the Senate, will result in a backlash against the Democratic Party, leading to defeat at the polls in 2020. They say that a Republican Senate will never convict Trump following a successful impeachment, and that the American people are not yet ready for impeachment, as suggested by polls that fail to show a majority of the American people currently in favor of impeachment.

But polls on impeachment depend on how the poll question is phrased. Most polls that I’ve seen ask merely whether or not Trump should be impeached or if the House should hold impeachment proceedings. Such polls generally have shown the percentage of Americans in favor of impeachment to be in the high 30s to low 40s. But many more Americans would be in favor of an impeachment inquiry.

Furthermore, an official impeachment inquiry would be televised, as were the Watergate hearings of the 1970s. Many Americans who currently say that they are not in favor of impeachment simply are not well informed on the subject. A well-structured and televised impeachment inquiry would bring to the attention of the American people on a daily basis the multitude of reasons why Donald Trump is unfit to be President. I don’t see how that could fail to sway public opinion against him and substantially hurt his prospects of being re-elected. Furthermore, as that happens, Republican Congresspersons and Senators and would be faced with a great dilemma. They could either go along with the Democrats in voting for impeachment and conviction, respectively, or they could choose to try to explain to their constituents why they failed to do so. I suspect that many who choose the latter course would be voted out of office in November 2020.

Historical data on the political effects of attempts at impeachment in the United States

To help evaluate that opinion, let’s take a look at the historical data on the subject. There have been three previous impeachment attempts or threatened impeachment in the United States: 1) In 1868, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to impeach President Andrew Johnson on eleven articles of impeachment, which all centered around his firing of a cabinet officer, which at the time was against federal law. He escaped conviction in the Senate by one vote; 2) In 1974, following extensive televised hearings on crimes related to a break-in at Democratic National Committee Headquarters, involving three articles of impeachment (obstruction of justice, abuse of power, and contempt of Congress), President Richard Nixon resigned from office, knowing that he would otherwise be impeached by the House and probably convicted and removed from office by the Senate; 3) In December 1998, President Bill Clinton was impeached for perjury and “obstruction of justice”, primarily related to consensual sex with a 22 year old intern who worked for him. He was acquitted in the Senate in February 1999.

Following his acquittal in the Senate, President Andrew Johnson ran for the Democratic nomination for President in 1868, but won less than a third of the delegates on the first ballot, and failed to win the nomination. The Republican Party, which impeached him, held onto both the House (though with a loss of 4 seats) and the Senate (with no change in composition), and they won the Presidency (Ulysses S. Grant).

In the Congressional elections of 1974, the Democratic Party, which had led the impeachment effort against Nixon, won their House election 291-144, representing a whopping gain of 49 seats. They also won their Senate elections 23-11 and held onto their Senate majority, with a gain of three seats. In the next Presidential election, of 1974, Nixon’s former Vice President, and current President, Gerald Ford, narrowly won the Republican primary, and then lost the general election to Jimmy Carter.

Because Bill Clinton’s impeachment occurred in December of 1998, the Congressional elections of that year occurred prior to impeachment, but while the impeachment effort was a hot issue. However, there was little if any effect on the elections, as the impeaching Party, the Republicans, held onto their House majority (though losing four seats) and their Senate majority (with no change in Senate composition). Following the impeachment and acquittal in the Senate, the Republicans continued to hold onto their House majority in the election of 2000 (though losing two seats), as well as the Senate (though losing 4 seats in the Senate). They also gained the Presidency, with George W. Bush defeating Clinton’s Vice President, Al Gore, though that election was the closest Presidential election in U.S. history, Gore won the popular vote, and Bush’s victory was highly controversial (I would say stolen, though that is not the subject of this post.)

Thus, in summary, past history shows no support whatsoever for the theory that the impeaching Party is likely to suffer adverse political consequences. To the contrary, they won the Presidency in each of the three elections following the impeachment effort, did not suffer a loss of either House of Congress in any of the elections, and indeed, picked up 49 House seats following the impeachment effort against Nixon. In contrast to impressive gains by the impeaching Party following the impeachment efforts against Johnson and Nixon, the results were pretty much neutral following the impeachment and acquittal of Clinton. However, it is important to note that the seriousness of the charges were far more substantial against Johnson and Nixon than those against Clinton. Charges against Trump should be even more serious.

Some very serious impeachable offenses committed by Trump that should require little or no further investigation

It is highly doubtful that when our Founding Fathers wrote the impeachment clause in Article Two, Section Four of our Constitution, that they intended impeachment to be limited to offenses that could result in criminal convictions in court. There are a multitude of offenses that are not defined as criminal, and yet would obviously make a person totally unfit to be President of the United States. Regarding the term “high crimes and misdemeanors”, when our Constitution was written, a misdemeanor was not defined as a crime. What then is a “high misdemeanor” supposed to mean. This is not defined in our Constitution, and there is little agreement on precisely what it means. However, certainly it should include any offense that clearly makes one unfit to hold the office of President. There is very little disagreement on that. One typical suggested definition for "high crimes and misdemeanors" is, for example: “acts so dangerous to the public that he may not be allowed to remain in office until the next election”.

Nor is there any mention in the Constitution that in order to “convict” a President to remove him from office (I don’t believe that our original Constitution, written in the 18th Century, allowed women to be President), that the stringent criminal standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt” should be applied. Everyone should have basic human rights, which includes a right to freedom, except in extraordinary circumstances, such as being found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, of serious criminal offenses. But nobody has an inalienable right to be President of the United States. Our Constitution includes an impeachment clause because of the necessity of removing a President from office if found to be unit for the office or dangerous to our country.

Given that, here are some things that I believe should be a slam dunk for impeachment of Donald Trump, with little or need for any further investigation. I believe that there are actually hundreds of impeachable offenses that he’s committed since becoming President, but these are just some of the most obvious and easy to establish:

1. Obstruction of Justice, as extensively detailed in Volume II of the Mueller report.

2. Collusion with Russia to enable them to interfere in the 2016 election, as extensively detailed in Volume I of the Mueller report. Note: Although the Mueller report states that Mueller’s investigation did not establish “conspiracy” with Russia, as legally defined, beyond a reasonable doubt, the report does extensively describe collusion of the Trump campaign with Russia’s effort to assist them, throughout much of the more than 200 pages of Volume I, under the general rubric that Trump “welcomed” Russia’s assistance.

3. Refusal to take any steps to ensure a fair election in 2020, despite unanimous or near unanimous conclusions of Trump’s own intelligence agencies that Russia will again interfere in the 2020 U.S. elections to manipulate them in Trump’s favor.

4. Refusal to release his tax returns, as required by law – not to mention extensive aggressive efforts to prevent anyone else from releasing them.

5. Refusal to obey Congressional subpoenas – not to mention aggressive efforts to prevent numerous potential witnesses from obeying Congressional subpoenas relating to Congressional investigation of potentially impeachable offenses committed by Trump.

6. Numerous incidents of public incitement to violence, evidenced by numerous publicly available videos.

7. Habitually lying to the American people, as documented in more than ten thousand incidents, by the Washington Post.

8. Taking hypocrisy to absurd lengths by making punishment of undocumented immigrants the primary centerpiece of his campaign and presidency, while knowingly and simultaneously employing a multitude of such immigrants as cheap labor for his own businesses.

9. Wantonly cruel treatment of immigrants, including but not at all limited to separation of children from their parents, in some cases associated with deaths.

10. Using the office of the Presidency in multiple ways to enrich himself.

11. Failure to take any action against, or even acknowledging Saudi Arabia’s brutal murder of an American resident.

Concluding remarks

Our Founding Fathers recognized that democracy is a fragile system, which requires constant vigilance by those who have it, in order to keep it. That was a major reason why they included an impeachment clause in our Constitution. The above items and much else in Trump’s behavior as President have consistently demonstrated his utter disregard for our laws and our Constitution, and his seething contempt for Congress, all of our public institutions including the Office of the Presidency, the American people, and all other peoples of the world, with the exception of a few powerful and brutal dictators. And clearly, he has no moral compass whatsoever.

To allow such a man to remain as our President without making a vigorous attempt to get rid of him, in accordance with our Constitution, is a disgrace to our country and to all those in a position of power who refuse to fight back. It reminds me of how Hitler took over Nazi Germany. Like Hitler, Trump often talks about being “President for life”. He does so with a transparent pretense of just joking about it, but I’m quite sure that that is his goal – and that he will stop at nothing to achieve it, especially given the potential consequences to him if he doesn’t remain in office. He has bragged publicly that, in his fight against Democrats, he has the military, the police, and all sorts of other tough guys on his side. Does anyone really believe that he wouldn’t make our country into a police state if he could? He is clearly attempting to replace our whole government with nothing but obsequious devotees who he can count on to put loyalty to him personally above loyalty to our country or anything else. The longer he stays in power, the closer he gets to achieving that. Already, our Department of Justice is nothing but a Trump servant.

We must fight back, and impeachment is the only legal, non-violent way to do it. We cannot count on an election that is a year and a half away, and likely to be rigged to some unknown extent, to get rid of him. Even if he is ultimately acquitted by his Republican Senate, history suggests that daily televised hearings of his many offenses against our country are far more likely to weaken him than they are to cause a backlash in his favor.

I am aware that Jerry Nadler, as Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has stated that in some sense an impeachment inquiry is already underway. I am grateful for that as a move in the right direction. But I have two problems with it. One is that it is currently unofficial, which means that it is not televised. Consequently, whatever inquiry is currently underway, it is not generating much public support for impeachment, as did the Watergate Hearings of 1973-4, which generated so much public pressure against Richard Nixon that he was forced to resign, rather than face an actual impeachment vote and trial and conviction in the Senate. Secondly, Nadler has stated that this informal “impeachment inquiry” might or might not result in an actual impeachment vote in the House, depending upon where the inquiry leads. That statement suggests that we don’t already have a mountain of evidence for impeachable offenses against Trump – which is preposterous. For these reasons, and given the apparent extreme reluctance to impeachment of the House leadership, I am not at all certain that the current informal impeachment inquiry is going to be fruitful.

If you agree with what I’ve written here, please contact your Congressperson to urge them to support impeachment if they haven’t already done so, or to show support for them if they already have.
Posted by Time for change | Tue Aug 13, 2019, 12:00 PM (41 replies)
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