A Ray of Light

It’s probably fair to say that most of the posts by the Machine taste at least somewhat of whine. More broadly, that’s a human condition as well. We tend to be more vocal when we are not happy. That’s probably also why most of our favorite songs are sad, many review sites skew toward the negative, and equivalents of the angry emoji carry the most weight in social media algorithms. So when the opportunity to say something positive arises, carpe diem. Yeah that’s right, the Machine just whipped out the Latin.

To put it succinctly, November and December of 2022 have been very good months for the preservation of American democracy. What makes this positive moment even more striking is its contrast with the preceding six years of assault on the foundations of that democracy, beginning with the still unpunished meddling of Russian social media bots in the 2016 election, and peaking with an attempted coup in January of 2021. While it is certainly disquieting that so many people and politicians still vote in philosophical alignment with those events, it is equally encouraging that enough people examined their consciences to rise up against it in the waning weeks of 2022.

The good news began with the midterm elections, and not because the heavily forecasted “red wave” didn’t happen – that’s part of a different and historical political dynamic between the parties, and it’s perfectly acceptable to have a different view of it depending on what party most closely matches your personal ideals. The most important outcomes of the midterms were the near unanimous rejection of 2020 election deniers that tried to obtain positions of power over elections themselves. In the most critical battleground states from 2020 – Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – people with dedication to the rule of law and the American Constitution won the elections for Governor and Secretary of State. This was a bipartisan victory for democracy – the Republican Governor and Secretary of State from Georgia are among that group with the Democratic victors from the other states. This means we can expect those people in those positions to do their jobs the right way in 2024.

But you never want the fabric of our republic to be dependent on who fills a given role at any given time. That is why what just happened moments ago in the House of Representatives was so critical: HR 2617 was passed – a bill that nominally lays out spending through fiscal year 2023, but much more importantly includes the Electoral Count Reform Act. The Machine summarized that act two posts ago, but it’s worth restating the key elements here:

  1. Slates of electors can only come from the Governor of a state, except in extreme circumstances. This means state legislatures controlled by the party that lost the election can’t just throw together alternate slates and send them to Washington, unless they’re willing to go through the court system, which proved itself very resilient two years ago in throwing out ludicrous claims of fraud with zero physical evidence.
  2. The language surrounding the role of the Vice President has been cleaned up, so nobody can concoct the absurd notion that the VP has any role other than to count the votes that have already been certified from the states. The degree to which that notion inflamed the events of January 6, 2021 cannot be overstated.
  3. The threshold for objection to the slate of electors from a given state has been substantially raised. Before now, only one member from each chamber was required to raise an objection. Now, it will require one fifth of each chamber – a threshold probably and admittedly easily to attain in the uber-partisan House, but a lot tougher in the Senate, where even in 2021 the final tally fell well short.

The events of late 2020 and early 2021 nearly toppled the peaceful transfer of power that defines our democracy. But the Constitution was just resilient enough to survive it, and that same Constitution gave us a mechanism by which we could make it stronger for the next go-round – and now we have.

This is not to say the threat is gone – far from it, and who knows what form those ominous clouds will take next. But for today at least, the Sun is shining on the stars and stripes.

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