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The Daily Strategist

January 19, 2021

Georgia Flips the Senate

Jon Ossoff’s confirmed victory coincided with the Trump-fueled attack on Congress, so I wrote about the conjunction of the two events at New York:

News that major news-media outlets had called Democrat Jon Ossoff’s victory over David Perdue in the Georgia Senate runoff — giving Democrats control of the upper chamber and a governing trifecta — arrived just as a shocked nation was observing the violence and chaos in the Capitol that President Trump and his Republican enablers have done so much to incite in recent months. On multiple fronts it became apparent that the irresponsible words that are the president’s signature do indeed have consequences.

For the rioters and the MAGA hordes they represented, of course, the Democratic wins in Georgia were just two more “stolen elections,” despite assurances from Republican election officials in the state that the balloting and counting were entirely clean and mostly efficient. (Raphael Warnock’s win over Kelly Loeffler was sealed late the night before, earlier than expected.) It’s increasingly clear that Trump regards any election he does not win as “stolen,” which is one of the deadliest signs of un-American authoritarianism. But no matter how long Republicans in Georgia and Washington take to concede their defeats, the Georgia runoffs will be remembered as an important part of the national transition away from the dangerous 45th presidency.

Trump richly earned another loss by trampling the potentially winning Republican message of keeping the Senate in GOP hands to rein in Biden and his party from abuses of power and excessive liberalism. He forced Loeffler and Perdue to bend their knees — and their campaigns — to his doomed effort to steal the presidential election. But then he couldn’t deliver the votes to make this hijacking of Georgia’s election an object lesson to those hoping to build a post-Trump party.

The Georgia voters who elected Warnock and Ossoff to the Senate in a dramatic general-election runoff on Tuesday had no way of knowing what would happen the very next day. But there’s rough justice in the rebuke they administered to Trump and his party. Having lost the power to systematically obstruct Biden’s appointments and legislative agenda, Trump’s divided and defeated party will suffer for quite some time after he finally leaves the White House.

What are the Best Reponses to Trump’s Goon Riot?

In “Impeach and Convict. Right Now. Trump is too dangerous to leave in office for even another minute,” New York Times columnist Bret Stephens writes: “The duty of the House of Representatives and the Senate, once they certify Joe Biden’s election, is to reconvene, Wednesday night if possible, to impeach the president and then remove him from office and bar him from ever holding office again….To allow Trump to serve out his term, however brief it may be, puts the nation’s safety at risk, leaves our reputation as a democracy in tatters and evades the inescapable truth that the assault on Congress was an act of violent sedition aided and abetted by a lawless, immoral and terrifying president.”

From the Washington Post editorial Board: “The president is unfit to remain in office for the next 14 days. Every second he retains the vast powers of the presidency is a threat to public order and national security. Vice President Pence, who had to be whisked off the Senate floor for his own protection, should immediately gather the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment, declaring that Mr. Trump is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” Congress, which would be required to ratify the action if Mr. Trump resisted, should do so. Mr. Pence should serve until President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated on Jan. 20….Now that the stakes are viscerally clear, Mr. McConnell and every other Republican, almost all of whom bear some blame for what occurred on Wednesday, have an overriding responsibility to the nation: stopping Mr. Trump and restoring faith in democracy….The highest voice in the land incited people to break that faith, not just in tweets, but by inciting them to action. Mr. Trump is a menace, and as long as he remains in the White House, the country will be in danger.”

Law profesors David Landau and Rosalind Dixon write in a New York Times op-ed,”First, Vice President Pence and a majority of the cabinet should invoke Section 4 of the 25th Amendment in order to make a declaration that Mr. Trump is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” This would immediately suspend, but not remove, Mr. Trump from the exercise of his presidential duties and appoint Mr. Pence as acting president. The 25th Amendment would not and should not be used as a lasting solution in a case of this kind, but rather as a temporary measure to sideline a demonstrably unfit and dangerous actor who is fueling anti-democratic action….Second, the House should quickly draw up and pass articles of impeachment. And then the Senate should hold a fair — but immediate and efficient — trial both to remove President Trump from office and, as important, to disqualify him from serving in public office in the future….A public vote and rapid trial in the Senate would give much-needed legitimacy to actions to remove Mr. Trump from office. By forcing Republicans to stand up for democracy and against the president’s actions, it would also reaffirm bipartisan support for the fundamental principles of American democracy. Further, while the 25th Amendment is intended mainly for illness or other objective incapacities, impeachment offers an appropriate moral response to the president’s conduct, including incitement to violence and attacks on basic democratic norms.”

But anyone who expects the machinery of the 25th Amendment to work in time to prevent further Trump atrocities should read “Senior officials have discussed removing Trump under the 25th Amendment. Here’s how that could work” by Tim Elfrink at The Washington Post. Still, congress should take both steps to stand firm for the principles of legal accountability, no matter how long it takes. Congress should also do whatever they can to establish accountability for the security failures on the part of the capitol police administrators. Strong security measures to protect the inauguration should be put in place. Meanwhile, what can ordinary citizens do? Capture photos and videos of the rioters breaking the law and post them, so their employers will at least know who they are paying. Demand that they be arrested and charged with violations of the law. Going forward, continue to photograph Trump’s goons breaking the law and post their photos. Contact members of congress and senators and demand they stand up for accountability for the riots. Call for expulsion of members of congress and the senate who voted against certification of the Electoral College vote. Consider boycotts of corporate donors to these members of congress and the senate.

Political Strategy Notes

In his Washington Post column, “Georgia’s voters end the Trump era. Definitively,” E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes, “Thanks to the voters of Georgia, the 2020 election looks very different than it did 48 hours ago. President-elect Joe Biden will now govern with a Democratic Senate and a Democratic House. The margins will be thin, but the power of Republicans to obstruct has been sharply diminished….And the political map of the United States looks very different, too. Four years ago, it was unimaginable that Democratic control of the elected branches of the federal government would be cemented by victories in Senate races in Georgia. The Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff won in a state that had not elected a Democrat to the Senate in two decades….The outcome put an exclamation point on Biden’s success and a dagger into the Trump era. President Trump almost certainly hurt Republicans Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, both directly and indirectly….Their defining issues were economic, and their victories would make it far easier for Biden to enact a large new relief package, a major infrastructure program, and expansions in health-care coverage and child care — as well as democracy reforms and voting-rights protections….Georgia’s choice will make an enormous difference in Washington — easing passage of Biden’s program, speeding the confirmation of his appointees and enabling the new president to fill empty court seats.”

Stacey Abrams marked Trump’s riot at the capitol with an eloquent meme:

Geoffrey Kabaservice shares some insights on the Georgia Senate flip at The Guardian: “The election returns from Georgia are showing a consistent pattern of Democrats having shown up at the polls at rates approaching their general election turnout, while significant numbers of Republicans stayed home. Democrats did a superb job of voter mobilization, including the door-to-door efforts that they chose not to undertake for pandemic-related reasons in the lead-up to the November elections. But they also made the straightforward argument that the Georgia elections mattered because Biden’s success in appointing officials and passing progressive programs would depend upon Democrats retaking control of the Senate….Credit for the victories must go to the candidates themselves, get-out-the-vote organizers in Georgia’s minority communities (Stacey Abrams above all), and Democratic donors and volunteers from all over the country. But the Republicans did as much to lose these elections as the Democrats did to win them.”

After giving Warnock, Ossoff and their campaigns, along with Abrams and Georgia’s energetic activist community due credit, there’s no avoiding the conclusion that Trump’s blundering clusterfuck rhetoric and behavior made the Georgia senate flip inevitable. Alex Isenstadt notes at Politico that “senior Republicans are in near universal agreement that Trump’s relentless, two-month assault on voting processes around the nation and in Georgia played a major role in the party’s twin defeats in the state….Scott Jennings, a Kentucky-based GOP strategist and longtime McConnell confidante, noted that the party had suffered poor turnout in conservative areas of Georgia where Trump had strong support. “That’s on him. He told them their votes didn’t count, and some of them listened,” Jennings said….GOP officials had conducted internal polling showing that moderate voters were especially receptive to the idea that a Republican-controlled Senate would provide a needed check on the Biden White House. But Republicans concluded they couldn’t wage a check-and-balance focused campaign because it would be an implicit acknowledgment that Trump had lost, something that would alienate the president and his supporters….“Republicans had everything going for them in this race, except Trump. If this election had been about checks and balances, then the Republicans would have won. Instead it was about Trump and his conspiracy theories,” said Republican strategist Alex Conant, who was a top adviser on Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s 2016 presidential campaign….“By constantly exacting a pledge of fealty from the Republican candidates he basically froze them in place and made it almost impossible for them to run their own races. Instead they were in this constant state of reaction to Trump and his whims — whims that were toxic in the most important suburban areas of the state,” said Kevin Madden, a top adviser on Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign.”

Warnock Elected to U.S. Senate, Ossoff Likely Winner Also

The major media has called the U.S. Senate race in Georgia for Democrat Raphael Warnock, and they will likely call GA Democrat Jon Ossoff the winner of his U.S. Senate race later today. As of this writing, Rev. Warnock has 50.6 percent of the vote, compared to Loeffler’s 49.4 percent, while Ossoff leads Perdue by a margin of 50.2 percent to Perdue’s 49.8 percent, according to CNN Politics.

FiveThirtyEight’s Geoffrey Skelley notes that “CNN reports the following notable vote tallies are left:

  • 20,000 to 25,000 votes left in Fulton County.
  • 19,000 votes left in DeKalb County.
  • Almost 5,000 votes left in Gwinnett County.
  • 7,000 votes left in deep-red Coffee County in south Georgia.
  • 3,000 votes in Chatham County (Savannah).

So most of what is left is in pretty Democratic territory.”

If Ossoff increases his margin of victory beyond .5 percent, as seems likely,  there will be no automatic recount.

Polling Averages, Trump’s Meddling Spur Dem Hopes for Winning Senate Control

If you predicted a year ago that not one, but two impassioned followers of Martin Luther King, Jr. would be ahead in polling averages as slight favorites to unseat two incumbent Republican Senators on runoff election day in the state of Georgia, your friends would probably ask if you needed a ride home. Yet here we are, as fired up Georgians close out the final day of the runoff campaign for both of their state’s U.S. Senate seats. Rev. Raphael Warnock, pastor of Dr. King’s Ebenezer Baptist Church and Jon Ossoff, a former staffer for Rep. John Lewis, now hold narrow, within the m.o.e., leads in both the FiveThirtyEight and Real Clear Politics polling averages.

FiveThirtyEight has Ossoff leading his race on election day by a polling margin average of 49.1 to Perdue’s 47.4, while Warnock is running ahead of Loeffler by a margin of 49.4 percent to 47.2. At Real Clear Politics, Warnock leads with a 1.3 percent polling average, while Ossoff is ahead by 1.0. The trendline over the last week favors the Democrats.

Democrats have had their hopes dashed before, and yes, a strong election day turnout in conservative counties could re-elect the incumbent Republicans. This is a toss-up election and anything can happen, including the worst case scenario. But it’s equally-important to understand that Democrats have already won something important by getting this close. If the optimistic scenario prevails, Stacy Abrams should be politically-cannonized, or at least offered the DNC chair. She will certainly be favored to win Georgia’s governorship race, if she choses to run for it in 2022.

The caveat, however, is that no runoff scenario will give Democrats a strongly-dominant position in terms of enacting their legislative agenda. Even if they win both seats, a sole Democratic senator defecting on a vote can deny them a majority, never mind a filibuster-proof majority. Even talk of scrapping the filibuster has cooled, since some Democratic senators, including Mancin and Sinema have expressed reservations about it. Further, as Ronald Brownstein writes at CNN Politics,

The one sure bet from Tuesday’s US Senate runoff elections in Georgia is that they will produce a Senate precariously balanced between the two parties, accelerating a fundamental change that is simultaneously making the institution more volatile and more rigid.

Even if Republicans win both races, they will control the Senate majority with only 52 seats. If Democrats win both, they will eke out a 50-50 Senate majority with the tie-breaking vote of incoming Vice President Kamala Harris. A split would produce a 51-49 GOP majority.

That slim range of possibilities underscores a key change in the structure of Senate elections: With each party now consistently dominating elections up and down the ballot across a larger swath of states, it has become much tougher for either to amass a commanding Senate majority.

The fact that neither side will control more than 52 seats after Tuesday means that either party has held at least 55 Senate seats in only three congressional sessions since 2000. By contrast, in the previous 20-year span, one party reached 55 seats or more in seven congressional sessions. In fact, the meager three majorities of 55 seats or more since 2000 represent the fewest times that any party has accumulated at least 55% of the Senate seats over a 20-year span since the turn of the 20th century, according to official Senate records.

The inability of either side to build a big cushion has contributed to a historic level of volatility in Senate control, with neither party holding the majority for more than eight consecutive years since 1980, a span of turnover unprecedented in American history.

The narrow majorities have also contributed to a Senate that has grown more rigid, with much more partisan conflict and less of the ad hoc bipartisan deal-making that characterized the body through the second half of the 20th century. The Senate will mark a new high — or low — in its rising partisanship on Wednesday when about a quarter or more of Republican senators will vote against recognizing Democrat Joe Biden’s election as president, despite the complete inability of President Donald Trump to present any credible evidence of fraud.

Whether they win or lose the runoff, however, Democrats have something to celebrate. They now have a solid beachhead in the South, and the demographic trends are all in a blue direction.

Political Strategy Notes

Can Democrats Win Georgia—and the Senate?,” Charles Bethea asks at The New Yorker and writes: “Bernard Fraga, a professor of political science at Emory and the author of “The Turnout Gap,” told me that turnout tends to drop by forty per cent or more for runoff elections. In Georgia, he explained, the drop-off is typically more severe among Democrats. But he didn’t expect this runoff to be typical. We might see a drop-off as small as fifteen per cent, he suggested. “But will that historically low drop-off be disproportionately Republican or Democratic?” he asked. “That’s what these groups on the ground are trying to decide.”….Fraga told me that nationalizing the races had been a boon for Democrats in the fall, that it spurred interest and brought in money that helped drive turnout. Ufot said that things like the postcard barrage simply work. “It’s part of our ‘ten touches,’ ” she said, explaining that receiving ten reminders about an election increases the likelihood that a registered voter will actually show up….By the end of early voting, more than three million Georgians had cast their ballots, and the early data appeared to favor the Democrats: there were thousands of new voters, a high percentage of Black voters, and somewhat lower turnout—so far; Election Day voting may rebalance things—in conservative parts of the state.”

From “Democrats may make history in Georgia’s Senate runoffs” by Harry Enten at CNN Politics: “My average of Georgia polls shows the two Senate runoffs on Tuesday are within the margin of error and way too close to call….It’s hard not to assign Perdue and Loeffler’s troubles at least partially to Trump. He was the weak link for Republicans running statewide in Georgia this past year. He lost by 0.2 points and his margin was more than a point worse than the Republican candidates in both Senate races….More bluntly, Trump is the only Republican to lose a statewide race in Georgia in more than a decade….In theory, Perdue and Loeffler do not want this race to become about Trump. Trump, however, has helped to accomplish the opposite of that….Trump is reminding the few but very important split ticket voters in Georgia that Perdue and Loeffler are part of Trump’s Republican Party….In doing so, he may be helping to change the dynamic of what normally occurs in runoffs in the Peach State. We haven’t been seeing Republicans picking up ground ahead of the runoff like they normally do. As the averages show, it seems that the Republicans may actually be losing ground….Now, it would be one thing if Trump’s antics were driving Republicans to the polls. After all, high turnout doesn’t come close to guaranteeing a Democratic victory….But so far, the turnout swing seems to be favoring Democrats. Black voters have consistently been making up 3 to 4 points more of voters through the early voting period than they did at the equivalent points in the general election….Meanwhile, turnout in the more White rural areas of the state has been lagging. A lot of these White rural voters are fans of Trump, and it could be that him attacking Georgia Republicans makes them less likely to want to turn out and vote.”

As regards the political fallout concerning the stimulus checks, “Public opinion does appear to be on Democrats’ side,” Perry Bacon, Jr. reports at FiveThirtyEight. “Seventy-eight percent of Americans said they supported these $2,000 stimulus checks, compared to 17 percent who opposed them, according to a poll conducted Dec. 22-28 by the left-leaning Data for Progress. Similarly, a survey conducted by Business Insider and Survey Monkey on Dec. 21 found that 62 percent of Americans said that the $600 stimulus checks adopted in a recent bill is not enough; 76 percent said the payments should be more than $1,000…giving Ossoff and Warnock the opportunity to suggest that Loeffler and Perdue are impediments to the payments, since they back McConnell continuing as majority leader.” Bacon notes some of the ways it might not matter, including the fact that many voters don’t seem to care much about policy, but adds, “Democrats are pushing a popular idea right before what look like very-close elections, and the Republican Party is blocking it. The issue could well help Warnock and Ossoff in Georgia…”

How might Dems respond to Trump’s boot-lickers in congress refusing to certify the Electoral College vote, upcomming on Wednesday?  Just get out of the way and watch them collapse their party in a pathetic orgy of self-destruction, is one answer. As NorthBronxDem notes “In epic Twitter thread, Steve Schmidt explains why 1/6/21 will be the end of the Republican Party.” at Daily Kos: “Steve Schmidt, the former Republican strategist and newly minted member of the Democratic Party, went on Twitter this evening to explain how January 6 path will spell doom for the Republican Party.” Schmidt tweets, “The 6th will commence a political civil war inside the GOP. The autocratic side will roll over the pro-democracy remnant of the GOP like the Wehrmacht did the Belgian Army in 1940. The ‘22 GOP primary season will be a blood letting. The 6th will be a loyalty test. The purge…will follow. Does anybody doubt the outcome of the @IvankaTrump vs. @marcorubio primary in Florida? Anyone willing to make a bet on @robportman? It turns out JFK was right. The problem of trying to ride the tiger is the likelihood of winding up inside the tiger. The poisonous…Fruit from four years of collaboration and complicity with Trumps insanity, illiberalism and incompetence are ready for harvest. It will kill the GOP because it’s Pro Democracy faction and Autocratic factions can no more exist together then could the Whig Party hold together…The abolitionist with the Slave master. It won’t happen over night but the destination is clear. The Conservative party in America is dead…”

Youth Activism May Help Warnock and Ossoff Give Dems Senate Control

There was a time when the “out-of-state trouble-maker” critique worked, particularly in the south. In 2021 – not so much. Rachel Janfaza explains how “Young people are getting out the vote in Georgia — from thousands of miles away” at CNN Politics:

From messaging potential voters on dating apps to helping pay for Uber rides to the polls, young people across the country are playing a role in the Georgia Senate runoff elections from afar, and they’re getting creative with digital techniques while doing so….Students, influencers and celebrities got to work as soon as they realized both of Georgia’s Senate seats were heading to runoffs on January 5, as no candidate won more than 50% of the vote in November.

….On the left, Students for Ossoff and Warnock, a youth-led organization unaffiliated with the Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock campaigns but working to drum up support for the Democratic candidates, has mobilized a group of national field organizers, who live out of state but work to turn out voters for the two Georgia Democrats. They organize digitally by hosting Zoom calls and phone banks and help run the organization’s viral TikTok account.

Janfaza notes further, “According to Emily Zanieski, a student at Georgia Southern University who helps lead national programming for the organization, Students for Ossoff and Warnock has attracted members from Students for Markey — a group that gained national attention for their wit and humor online while helping Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey win his Democratic primary in September.” Also,

For its part, Sunrise Movement, the progressive youth-led climate justice organization, has mobilized their 400-plus local hubs to call and text into Georgia. The group is prioritizing contact with young voters who are under the age of 35. Since November, more than 1,000 Sunrise volunteers have made more than 500,000 calls, sent over 299,000 texts and reached 18,700 young voters in Georgia, according to the organization.

…Plus1 Vote, a New York-based nonpartisan organization that encourages voters to bring a plus one to the polls to increase turnout, is providing free Uber rides to the polls across Georgia for early voting, absentee ballot drop off and on Election Day. Georgians are encouraged to use the voucher code “VoteGA” in the Uber app to receive their free ride to the polls.

Meanwhile, organizers with “Swipe Out the Vote Georgia” are using dating apps such as Tinder and Hinge to contact Georgia voters and ensure they have a plan to vote. According to messaging from the group, the technique is “for those who are tired of phone banking and texting, and want to try something new and exciting.”

In addition, check out Elliot C. McLaughlin’s “How Atlanta rappers helped flip the White House (and they’re hustling to flip the US Senate)” also at CNN Politics, which reports on the extraordinary role of Hip Hop artists and their fans in sparking political activism in the heart of the south.

If Georgia’s runoff flips the senate majority, there will be lots of discussion about which demographic played the pivotal role. But win or lose, these young activists deserve great credit for mobilizing their generation to win a better future.

Political Strategy Notes

As we close out the year and the last day of early voting in Georgia’s U.S. Senate runoff elections today, both Democrats, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock lead in FiveThirtyEight’s average of all polls conducted for the runoff. Ossoff leads Perdue by 48.5 to Perdue’s 47.5, while Warnock leads 49.2 to Loeffler’s 47.3.  Real Clear Politics poll average calculations report Warnock leading by 1.8 percent and Ossoff ahead with a .8 lead. Both elections are clearly in toss-up territory. Democrats have reasons to be optimistic, including a disproportionately large turnout of Georgia’s African American voters thus far and the utter confusion driving divisions in the state GOP, exacerbated by Trump’s relentless sore-loser chaos, McConnell’s obstruction of the stimulus increase and the incumbent senators’ pandemic profiteering.

Brent Budowsky explains why “Trump Georgia rally could backfire, electing Ossoff and Warnock” at The Hill: “Today the battle rages in Washington and Georgia over the possibility of $2,000 COVID-19 relief checks that are strongly supported by President Trump, almost all Democrats in Congress, a minority of Republicans in Congress, and Georgia Democratic Senate candidates Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock….By contrast, Georgia’s GOP Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler have taken so many shifting positions on COVID-19 relief that voters need a scoreboard to keep track of what they believe on a given day….One reason the Trump rally in Georgiacould backfire against Republicans is that it will dramatize to voters how strongly the Democratic candidates are fighting for them economically while the Republican candidates are not….The second reason that Trump’s rally in Georgia could backfire against Republicans, and help elect Ossoff and Warnock, is that while Democrats are engaging in a massive voter mobilization and turnout project, Trump’s false claims that Georgia’s voting systems are corrupt and that the state’s electoral votes were stolen from him will enrage Biden voters and have some effect depressing on GOP turnout….The Georgia rally will be all about Trump, complete with attacks against Georgia Republicans, which will anger Biden voters, mobilize Democratic voters, divide and depress Republican voters, confuse public presentations from Loeffler and Perdue, and possibly give Ossoff and Warnock a decisive last-minute boost on Election Day.”

At The Washington Post, E. J. Dionne, Jr. offers this message point for Democrats in his last column of the year, “Republican ‘populism’ is a fraud,”: “If Georgia’s voters want serious legislating next year about the crisis we face, they need to elect Ossoff and Warnock. Biden’s decision to make another campaign visit on their behalf shows that, however much he hopes he can work with Republicans, he knows he’ll be far better off with a Senate not in the hands of the Grim Reaper, as McConnell has proudly called himself….That’s because Republicans were only willing to embrace Trump’s “populism” as long as it was fake — or of a right-wing sort that elevated the politics of race and immigration. The moment Trump started talking about real money for non-elites, the GOP leadership threw its hands up in horror. McConnell’s maneuvers this week are the last gasp of his party’s hypocrisy, rooted in a burning desire for working-class votes unmatched by a will to do anything to earn them.”

Looking forward to future Democratic campaigns, here’s a voter turnout tip, from an interview conducted by Scott Harris at Between the Lines with ‘Tony The Democrat,’ founder of Post Cards to Voters, : “A volunteer-centered progressive electoral outreach project founded in the wake of Donald Trump’s unexpected election victory in 2016, has blossomed into an effective national get out the vote organization with a proud record of success. Postcards to Voters, based in Georgia, recruits volunteers to write “friendly, handwritten reminders to targeted voters, giving Democrats a winning edge in close, key races coast to coast….From its first campaign on behalf of Georgia Democratic congressional candidate Jon Ossoff in 2017, with the help of just five volunteers, Postcards to Voters has expanded to work with 75,000 volunteers in all 50 states who have written close to 8 million postcards to voters in over 200 key election campaigns.” As Tony the Democrat explains further, “Our postcards are fully handwritten. We do not use printed mailing labels. We don’t send printed postcards to the volunteers where they just sign the bottom or add a sentence at the bottom. The entire message is handwritten and hand addressed. And we encourage the volunteers to use any appropriate postcard, including souvenir and travel postcards. Some people make their own. But the combination of the fully handwritten message and address along with the fact that the postcard itself is not one of these immediately obvious campaign mailers….So it’s easy to read. You don’t have to make a decision. Should I open this envelope from an unknown party? It’s a postcard. It’s like an open face sandwich. You know what’s inside. And it’s not a long, long letter. It’s easy and quick to read. We only write to Democratic voters.”

The Trump Election Coup Circus Will Come to Congress on January 6

Having chronicled the tale of a shady plan to challenge Joe Biden’s election when Congress meets to certify it on January 6, I was not surprised to find it’s going to the next level, as I explained at New York:

In early December, Republican Alabama congressman Mo Brooks let it be known that he planned to challenge Joe Biden’s election win when Congress convened on January 6 to execute the typically pro forma task of counting and confirming the Electoral College vote. Under the provisions of the Electoral Count Act of 1887, a challenge to any state’s electoral votes from one House and one Senate member triggers a two-hour debate in both chambers and then a vote in both houses on the challenge. Only if a majority of members in both houses vote to sustain the challenge does it have any effect. Given the impossibility of that happening, as Democrats control the House, the main effect of the gambit would be to force every Republican in Congress to go on record as crediting or discrediting Trump’s absurd claims that he actually won the election by a landslide.

For that very reason Mitch McConnell has strongly discouraged the members of his conference from joining Brooks in his gesture and triggering an actual debate and vote on January 6. But it was probably just a matter of time before the prospect of maximum appreciation from Trump and the praise of hard-core MAGA bravos led a senator to break ranks, and one of the prime suspects all along has made it official, tweeting: “Millions of voters concerned about election integrity deserve to be heard. I will object on January 6 on their behalf.”

Yes, the junior senator from Missouri, often described as a potential leader of a post-Trump “conservative populist” wing of the GOP, is fishing in the troubled waters of election-fraud conspiracy theories. In a statement he made a so’s-your-old-man claim that he’s just following precedents set by Democrats after the 2004 and 2016 elections. In the latter year there were protests from a smattering of House Democrats during the announcement of the electoral votes certifying Trump’s win, but no senator joined them, and as it happens, Joe Biden (who presided over the joint session of Congress as vice-president) shut down efforts to talk about election disputes from the floor. In 2005, a senator (Barbara Boxer) did join a House Democrat (Ohio’s Stephanie Tubbs Jones) in objecting to Ohio’s electoral vote based on concerns about voting-machine irregularities; this triggered a debate, but the protesters made it clear they weren’t actually challenging the outcome. More to the point, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry did not support the protest at all. It was a very different kettle of fish from today’s Trump-supported election-coup effort. If there is any analog at all to this situation, it would be the 2000 election, when Al Gore quickly conceded defeat after the Supreme Court shut down the Florida recount that might have reverse the outcome there, and then presided over the joint session of Congress that confirmed George W. Bush’s dubious win without much of a peep of protest — even though Gore, like Biden this year, unquestionably won the popular vote.

While the Brooks/Hawley gambit is bad news for every Republican in Congress who does not want to displease Trump, which means most of them, the pol placed most dangerously in the spotlight is Mike Pence, who like Gore in 2000 and Biden in 2016 will preside over the joint session of Congress on January 6 and will be responsible for announcing electors from each state (though he could delegate that chore to clerks).

It has been reported that Pence has been present at White House meetings involving January 6 plotters like Brooks, along with Trump and his lawyers. One of those plotters, extremist Texas congressman Louie Gohmert, has filed a federal lawsuit aimed at declaring the Electoral Count Act of 1887 an unconstitutional limitation on Pence’s power to decide which electors deserve recognition (whether or not they have been state-certified as the Electoral Count Act provides, cutting off all later challenges). Nobody expects the suit to get a hearing before January 6, but its intended purpose may have been to smoke out Pence on his relative willingness to steal the election by “announcing” fake Trump electoral slates from close states as the actual winners. Now Politico is reporting that Pence rejected an opportunity to join in Gohmert’s suit (he is in fact the named defendant, since he’s the one who will supervise whatever happens on January 6).

So barring some reversal by Brooks and Hawley, the circus is definitely coming to Washington on January 6, and in the center ring Mike Pence may be forced to choose between his clear constitutional duty and pressure to tug his forelock one last time to the man who lifted him to the vice-presidency. If Pence does try to claim electors for Trump in states won by Biden, we could have a full-on constitutional crisis, or more likely a repudiation of Pence by both houses of Congress. As for the “debate” over Team Trump’s claims, it clearly won’t involve any more evidence than the allegations already rejected by federal and state courts from sea to shining sea.