Democrats must go on the offensive

The GOP has to face consequences for seditious actions. And that will supercharge the Georgia runoffs too.

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The GOP is subverting democracy, following an authoritarian leader who refuses to accept clear defeat. Getting behind the long-shot Texas lawsuit seeking to throw out all votes in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and Georgia, which the Supreme Court rejected, was a blatant assault on America and its citizens. And the GOP leadership must face consequences.

Democratic leaders should be sounding the alarm loudly and repeatedly, beyond perfunctory statements, no matter that the court rightly threw out this case and the Electoral College has certified the vote.

Republicans must pay for their actions. Eighteen GOP attorneys general and 126 GOP members of the House of Representatives — including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy — essentially signed on to an effort to have the highest court in the land install an autocrat who’d appointed justices to that court for that purpose.

On Friday, Democratic Congressman Bill Pascrell of New Jersey wrote a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi calling on House Democratic leaders to refuse to seat the 126 members, explaining his action in tweets in which he sent out the letter:

Today I’m calling on House leaders to refuse to seat any Members trying to overturn the election and make Donald Trump an unelected dictator.

Section 3 of the 14th Amendment was written after the Civil War to bar from government any traitors who would seek to destroy the Union. My letter to House leadership today demands that 126 Republicans (and counting) are violating the Constitution

On Sunday, On MSNBC with Jonathan Capehart, Pascrell said he’d not heard from Pelosi yet but expected she’d respond to him. Referring to violence that erupted over the weekend at pro-Trump rallies in Washington led by the violent white supremacist group the Proud Boys, in which four people were stabbed, Pascrell bluntly warned Democrats as well as Republicans:

I have respect for a lot of Republicans who had better shape up the rest of their folks, because they’re going in the wrong direction…These people are serious. You saw people got stabbed last night in Washington? What is the next step? What do we need to have the two-by-four up against our heads, to understand what is going on in the United States right now?

President-elect Joe Biden has clearly made a decision not to feed Trump’s delusions and play into his game. Trump wants attention. A strong response feeds his ego and tells him he’s powerful. Biden has proceeded with confidence that he will be sworn in on January 20th — and he certainly will — and thus everything else is noise.

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Democratic House leaders, who haven’t held major press conferences on the GOP action nor appeared at all on Sunday talk shows to discuss it, are taking their cues from Biden. I understand the strategy, and why they don’t want to fan the flames of Trump’s chaos. But as political analyst Ron Brownstein notes, quoting Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne, by doing so Biden and Democratic leaders are making a decision to downplay this blatant assault.

Minimizing it may have a short-term effect of not feeding the madness. But the long-term effect could be devastating. The GOP cannot go unchecked. No matter that the system held because of the courts, Republicans are emboldened rather than humbled by what they’ve done.

And they will do it again.

In fact, they’ll feel empowered to launch every kind of outrageous attack on the Biden administration imaginable — and on democracy itself, even inspiring calls for secession — and stay silent as Trump engages in further anti-democratic actions. Trump has made threats against governors and legislators that inspire those who engage in violence on his behalf. Michigan today closed its statehouse ahead of the Electoral College vote amid credible threats of violence.

There must be a strong response to GOP legislators’ and attorneys’ general actions. Voters, led by grass roots activists, can be part of making that happen back home in their states, even as Republicans have gerrymandered districts, by working now to defeat them in upcoming elections.

But House Democratic leaders have to bring this to the House floor now. They can’t let this go by without a challenge.

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Does that mean doing what Pascrell suggests, not seating the sedition caucus in the next Congress? It’s a bold step, even as it is completely within their power in the Constitution, and Democrats aren’t often known for boldness. But they have other options too. They can vote to censure these members, highlighting their behavior and forcing the rest of the GOP members who didn’t sign on to this seditious act, which includes leaders like Representative Liz Cheney, to vote on it. They can also pass a resolution to condemn the behavior, either instead of a censure or in addition to it.

At a minimum Democratic leaders should be holding press conferences and going on the offensive. They should be blanketing the airwaves, standing up for democracy and standing against this act by Republicans taking orders from a man who doesn’t care if he destroys the country while promoting himself. As Pascrell implies, this is a moment in American history in which everyone better wake up and see what is happening in the United States. It can’t be ignored.

At a minimum Democratic leaders should be holding press conferences and going on the offensive.

And going full-throttle can have the effect of supercharging the base of the party — rather than demoralizing it — and exacting the sweetest revenge on the GOP: Taking back the Senate by winning the Georgia runoff elections on January 5th. If the energy and outrage of the Democratic base translates into Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff winning the runoffs, the Senate is then tied 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking a tie, giving Democrats control.

A powerful message right now for Democrats in Georgia is in fact that incumbent senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler signed on to the preposterous yet dangerous action that the Supreme Court flat out rejected. Perdue and Leoffler got behind a mad, failed scheme to get Georgia’s millions of votes thrown out. Not just a subset of contested votes in Georgia — but all of the votes in Georgia, as well as in three other states.

If the case prevailed, it would have negated not just the presidential race; it theoretically could have thrown out all of the votes for every race down ballot, including the legislative and local races, since everything was on the same ballot.

These two senators, like many in the GOP, including the leadership, will do anything for power, even if it means destroying democracy. That’s enough to vote them out, and is a message that Democrats have to drive home.

But beyond that, Democrats need to be bold and confident, letting the GOP know that traitors will be punished. Democratic leaders did the right thing in finally impeaching Trump after enormous pressure. And they need to do the right thing now to protect American democracy.