Democracy You Can Count On

Yeah, it’s been a while again. Sorry.

Meanwhile – hey, what’s that over there?….

Ok now that I’ve distracted you in two different directions, let’s talk about one of the most fundamental skills to being a human: counting. It’s pretty easy, and yet it is often the source of controversy. For example, in recreational hockey, I can’t tell you how many times I have seen two teams full of grown men devolve into utter chaos arguing about what the actual score is at any given moment.

Another area of life where counting gets way more complicated than it needs to be is in politics, and most specifically when the things being counted are votes. America is at the forefront of the unnecessary complications: the Democratic candidate for President has received more votes than their opponent in seven of the last eight elections, and yet the Republican candidate has won three times in that stretch. We have the most mathematically ridiculous invention in political history to thank for this: the Electoral College. The Machine has already talked at length on the silliness of the Electoral College, but that’s not the point of this particular post. The point of this post is HOW those silly numbers are counted, and how one far too overlooked piece of legislation could change that process and save democracy in a single vote.

Donald Trump, intellectually and emotionally, is a third grader at best. But somehow he surrounded himself with enough savvy people in 2020 that he almost stole the election and ended our democracy right then and there. The game plan started back in 2016, when even in *that* election Trump was teeing up a potential loss as clear cheating by the other side. There were enough disenfranchised people willing to believe that poppycock that it might have led to a January 6th riot even then. But the Electoral College saved Trump that cycle, and yadda yadda yadda, Putin Putin Putin, COVID COVID COVID, Trump plays the same hand in 2020, only this time even the absurdity of the Electoral College can’t save him.

There are a few big reasons that January 6th, 2021 actually *did* happen. Number one, Trump wants to be a dictator and was willing to do whatever it took to win. That one reason should not be overshadowed. Trump is Hilter. Trump is Napoleon. Trump is Stalin, Putin, etc etc etc…. all narcissistic psychopaths who want nothing more than power for themselves, and have no real moral compass or worldview otherwise. Unfortunately, that leads to reason number two: people fall for that shit every time. Finally, they think, someone who listens to my incessant whining about the world changing faster than I want. Finally, someone who cares about me. No, sorry, they don’t. But it works anyway. These two reasons are *never* going to go away. Democracy will always be under assault because of the human frailties that are embodied here.

But there are other reasons January 6th was able to happen. Number three, for example, was the potential for alternate slates of electors to be submitted by anyone who felt so compelled, even though an election with zero evidence of widespread fraud had led to an unambiguous result. Number four was the misguided notion that the Vice President somehow has the authority to stop the process and pick those alternate electors. And number five is the absurdly low threshold for objecting to a given state’s results: one Senator standing up and pretending to be the Messiah.

Right now, there is bipartisan support for a solution to reasons three through five. It doesn’t fully mitigate the risk: reasons one and two will always be quite powerful and difficult to overcome. But getting rid of reasons three through five would be a serious boost to the chances of democracy surviving the next election in America. The Electoral Count Reform Act has two different versions at the moment. The one in the House is undoubtedly better, but it has no prayer of passing. The one in the Senate is still extremely substantial, and even Mitch McConnell has signaled support for that one. Democrats and Republicans who treasure our democracy need to embrace that one.

There are a lot of components to the Senate bill, but the three most important target reasons three through five above. First, except in truly exceptional circumstances, slates of electors could only come from one source for each state: the Governor. So if someone had to raise an objection during the counting of the votes in Congress, they’d have nowhere to turn for an ”alternate slate”. Any disputes would need to have occurred beforehand through an accelerated court process – and courts require actual evidence to overturn things like this, as they courageously demonstrated in late 2020. Second, the Electoral Count Reform Act would make it crystal clear that the Vice President only presides over a count and cannot reverse the results. This alone would have diffused the absurd sentiment amongst the January 6th rioters that Mike Pence could have done anything differently than what he did that day. Finally, instead of a self-serving anti-patriot like Josh Hawley or Ted Cruz raising an objection to further their political careers, it would take no less than 20 Senators to determine that they should object to an ongoing Electoral Count.

It cannot be overstated how important it is that this new legislation be passed before the swearing in of the next Congress in January. Right now, the Democrats control the House – where MAGA Republicans run rampant. With Senate Republicans supporting the Senate version of the bill, it would be nearly guaranteed that it would pass both houses and become law. But if, as expected, the Republicans win the House, MAGA forces would likely ensure this bill never passes, setting us up for an absolute disaster in the 2024 election. Either the gains that MAGA election deniers have made in state offices will lead to a glut of alternate slates of electors, leading to a reversal of the real election results by Congress, or the same factors that led to January 6, 2021 would lead to a much bloodier 2025. Either way, odds would be against the survival of American democracy.

Your best chance of being able to vote for the U.S. President in 2028 will be determined not by what happens in 2024, but by whether the single most important piece of legislation in our lifetimes passes in 2022. It may be our last opportunity to do something that truly counts.

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