By Robert A. Vella
President Trump and the Republican Party know they cannot muster an electoral majority. In fact, the last time a Republican presidential candidate won the popular vote was in 2004 by a slim margin of 2.4%. Since then, as the GOP has become increasingly ideological and insular, party leaders have steadily moved away from a democratic approach to politics and instead have moved towards authoritarian methods. In essence, they seek to gain and hold political power by circumventing and subverting the will of the people.
With the Electoral College victory of Donald Trump in 2016, who lost the popular vote, the Republican effort to supplant democracy has rapidly accelerated. The 2020 election, now less than three months away, will see unprecedented attempts to stave-off a wave of angry voters determined to oust Trump and Republicans from office (see: Republicans fear disaster in November and 10 most vulnerable senators in 2020: Georgia’s Perdue joins list, Michigan’s Peters drops off). Today, we’ll examine the Trump and GOP strategy and how they are differing in tactics.
- Despite some recent tightening in the national polls, Democratic candidate Joe Biden continues to lead Trump nationally and in the states by strong margins. The Trump campaign and Republican super-PACs are launching a blitz of negative ads designed to tarnish Biden’s public image (see: Trump campaign uses altered photos of Biden in new ad).
- Furthermore, Trump’s henchman William Barr is abusing his authority as Attorney General to weaponize the Department of Justice as an illegitimate smear campaign against Biden (see: Trump administration’s probe of the Russia investigation [ordered by Attorney General William Barr and run by U.S. Attorney John Durham] may be nearing conclusion).
- Similarly, Trump is relying upon Vladimir Putin to interfere in the election on his behalf by spreading disinformation about Biden, Democrats, the Obama administration, and the Russia investigations conducted by the FBI and Special Counsel Robert Mueller (see: Top federal official says more details coming on foreign election interference); and, congressional Republicans have been trying to do the same without much success (see: ‘No such thing happened’: Former acting AG Sally Yates says Obama, Biden did not urge Flynn inquiry).
- Trump and Republicans are also escalating their voter suppression efforts in many states in order to reduce voter turnout, but have met stiff opposition in the courts (see: The Plot Against America: The GOP’s Plan to Suppress the Vote and Sabotage the Election).
- Trump operatives are scrambling to get rapper Kanye West on the ballot as a third-party candidate wherever they can as a ploy to dilute the Black vote (see: Republicans with ties to Trump are helping Kanye West get on general election ballots).
- Lastly, and more worrisome, Trump is trying to discredit the very legitimacy of the election by falsely attacking vote-by-mail as fraudulent and by purposefully sabotaging the U.S. Postal Service as a last-ditch maneuver to contest the likely outcome (see: As Trump attacks the mail, his administration gains more access to the Postal Service).
- Republican resistance against Trump’s attacks on vote-by-mail, which they see as detrimental to their own reelection hopes, has prompted hypocritical squirming by the President. Now, Trump says voting by mail is okay if it helps Republicans but is not okay if it help Democrats (see: Trump Lawyer Suggests Florida Vote Fraud Possible After President’s Praise).
- Finally, across the country Republican candidates in tight races are running strictly on their own records and not mentioning Trump at all because they fear that a national referendum on the President would swing the election against them (see: McConnell signal to Republican Senate candidates: Distance from Trump if necessary).
Here’s the news
On Monday, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office announced that it was investigating “public reports of possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization.” This was a concerning development for a president who has settled a lawsuit over what a federal judge called a “fraudulent university” and who was accused by the New York Attorney General of running a charity with a “shocking pattern of illegality.”
A New York Times investigation two years ago found a trail of phony records used in what the newspaper described as clear fraud. Trump has reportedly collected phony hurricane damages. ProPublica has uncovered massive discrepancies between the figures Trump has given to lenders and the government, portraying himself as rich to the banks and poor to the government, thus defrauding either one or both.
On Wednesday, the Times reported another development that should give the president’s legal team pause: the Manhattan DA’s Office has subpoenaed Trump’s lender Deutsche Bank, which the paper describes as “a sign that their criminal investigation into Mr. Trump’s business practices is more wide-ranging than previously known.” From previous subpoenas, it is understood that Vance’s office is investigating hush payments Trump made in 2016 to women he allegedly had affairs with, to determine if the then-candidate violated New York state law. Deutsche Bank has reportedly complied with the subpoena issued last year, and has handed over financial records and other statements Trump provided to the bank when applying for loans.
The New York Attorney General is filing a lawsuit against the National Rifle Association, seeking to dissolve the powerful gun lobby for a multitude of alleged violations of state law governing charities.
Attorney General Letitia James is accusing the NRA of an array of “illegal conduct,” according to a press release describing the suit, including “[the] diversion of millions of dollars away from the charitable mission of the organization for personal use by senior leadership, awarding contracts to the financial gain of close associates and family, and appearing to dole out lucrative no- show contracts to former employees in order to buy their silence and continued loyalty.”
The civil lawsuit, expected to be filed in Manhattan Supreme Court on Thursday, also names as defendants longtime NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre and three other NRA executives – John Frazier, Woody Phillips and Joshua Powell – and seeks their removal from their current positions and prohibition from their future service on any other New York-based nonprofit board.
Nationwide testing for COVID-19 is declining even as daily infections and deaths remain high due in part to Americans growing discouraged over long waits for tests and results.
Another concern is the extent to which a “different” kind of outbreak is spreading into rural America, White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx says.
Not all the news is bad – New York City has reported zero deaths for three straight days. The city on Thursday began setting up checkpoints to warn visitors about quarantine rules. On the West Coast, Los Angeles are threatening to cut off power and water to party houses.
The nation’s top health official, Dr. Anthony Fauci, says the country’s overall response to the pandemic has allowed the daily case count to plateau at an “unacceptable level,” warning that the U.S. will continue to “smolder” without a unified effort to stop the virus.
Delayed for months because of COVID-19, census workers will at last venture out in person in Los Angeles starting Tuesday. They’ll knock on doors at homes whose inhabitants have not yet been counted by phone, online or mail.
These households tend to be in poorer, heavily immigrant, Latino neighborhoods. If the enumerators fail to get responses — and it is all but certain many will — communities already reeling disproportionately from the pandemic will lose big. The census determines representation in Congress, and how the government divvies up more than $1.5 trillion a year in federal funds for schools, hospitals and other public services.
Nationwide, census response rates stand at 63%, 3.5 points below what they were 10 years ago at the same time. (California is one point ahead of the national rate, at 64%) But as the in-person count begins here, in some L.A. neighborhoods the response rate is half that. And, not surprisingly, in places where the coronavirus has hit the hardest, participation rates are among the lowest.
Immigrants have always been reticent to respond, Thelma Gutierrez, who works for the census in the Canoga Park area, told Nick Martinez. “They think that the government wants to target them if they do the census, which is not true.”
Every 10 years, Washington is constitutionally mandated to count “the whole number of persons” in the U.S.; doing it accurately is the basis of an equitable society. When enumerators begin knocking on doors in L.A. next week, it will be our last stand for fair representation. They need more time.
If the census deadline isn’t reset, the injustice will reverberate for at least a decade.