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William “Deke” Talbot of East Machias is a recently retired attorney who is now an amateur historian and essayist.
On Tuesday, I followed the lead of some Republicans of conscience by changing my affiliation from Republican to Democrat, a move I don’t take lightly. I remain an advocate of limited government, fiscal responsibility, the reservation of rights by the people under the Constitution and remain wary of well-meaning legislation that easily spins into overregulation by zealous bureaucrats; but as long as Donald Trump controlled the Republican Party, it became the anti-American party, leaving the Democrats as the only viable party to support democracy. I have become, for now, a single-issue voter.
The antics of Republican congressmen and senators to disrupt the formal adoption of the Electoral College results is more than an insult to the states that conducted the most careful, fair and open elections in our nation’s history, although that would be enough to condemn it. It is a conscious disregard of our federal system itself.
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Who would the Republicans have placed upon this “commission” to review election results already fully vetted by state recounts and the federal courts? What could it have done in the 10 days they demanded, other than to be a whitewash, and would they then have objected to that? How long would the inauguration have stalled while the insanity proceeded?
Of course, the scheme failed, but not without its terrifying side effects. Instead of being just a waste of time and breath, now the instigators have blood on their hands. It establishes another precedent to endanger us. Now the Senate has a blueprint for raising substantive objections to even the most carefully run state elections if the results are inconvenient, and the liars are more sophisticated. The Electoral College results were adopted, this time. But there will be a next time.
This first, clumsy attempt to hijack democracy was a hack job, gone horribly wrong. Donald Trump is too crude and blunt, too nakedly acting in self-interest, unable to exhibit any of the subtlety necessary to persuade enough people that his reelection was an existential necessity, to breach the defenses of our republic, as terrifyingly close as he came. He irrevocably expressed his love for the mob, and so war-painted, spear-carrying, bare-chested Buffalo Head became the face of the Republican Party.
Trump is finished, there can be no doubt. Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham and Mike Pence have all repudiated him. The party will expel him like a millstone, and any real money to support him will flee.
Mark Twain is reputed to have said, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.” A second iteration of the “Senate revolt” will come when an equally ambitious, but more cunning, charismatic and effective leader co-opts what appears to be an existential issue, and decides to refine the playbook.
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Climate change is a good candidate for the next perceived existential issue, important enough for advocates to disregard the votes of those they consider to have inferior judgment, arguing that what is the use of democracy if our very survival is at issue? Karl Marx said that history repeats itself first as tragedy, and then as farce. Trump’s attempt reverses the dictum — it is the farce, a very unfunny joke. The next time will be the tragedy.
When Trump leaves the White House, he can’t take his weapons with him. His successors could use them against his supporters. Historical arsonists will always burn those who get too close. Sadly, these flames can reach even those who haven’t been born yet.