the Blog Papers of Dr. Michael Sakbani; Economics, Finance and Politics

Dr. Michael Sakbani is a professor of economics and Finance at the Geneva campus of Webster-Europe. He is a senior international consultant to the UN system, European Union and Swiss banks. His career began at the State university of NY at Stoney Brook,then the Federal Reserve Bank of New York followed by UNCTAD where he was Director of the divisions of Economic Cooperation, Poverty Alleviation, and UNCTAD`s Special Programs. Published over 100 professional papers.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

American Democracy Hangs in the Balance

 

American Democracy Hangs in the Balance: An Essay

by

Dr. Michael Sakbani

The declaration of President Trump on Thursday 24/ 9/2020, that he will look at the situation after elections to decide whether to accept the results of the vote or not leaves no doubt about the intentions of the President not to submit to the electorates` will if he were not confirmed in his place. President Trump added that the Supreme Court should have 9 justices to look into the results of the elections, an indication that if all fails, he plans to go to court in the hope that his appointees on the Supreme Court would vote in his favor.

This comes after several months of his unsubstantiated claims of voters' fraud and attacks on mail balloting. There is no shred of evidence that electoral fraud has been of any significance in the US. The President knows that because of the epidemic, a historic number of American voters, perhaps as many as 50% of the voters, will vote by mail in this election cycle and that most of the mail vote will be cast for the Democrats. Therefore, in line with the Republican efforts to suppress voting, especially by minorities, he has thrown the legitimacy of voting by mail into question and seems to be planning to send “observers” to the ballot boxes in order to intimidate voters. His appointed Post Master General Mr. Dejoy is trying his best at slowing the mail and reducing mailboxes and mail- sorting machines. The Republican Governor of Texas has reduced balloting posts to one per county so that some voters might have to travel 100 miles to vote in person. So did other Republican Governors notably in Florida, and Georgia.

This threat is not a simple Trump attempt to create public opinion chaos and garner up media coverage. It is a studied step in several maneuvers he is likely to pursue to stay in power and refuse the will of the voters. Professor Barton Gellman of Dartmouth has outlined a possible legal attempt by Trump to have the legislators in six battleground states, namely, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio and North Carolina, in which the Republicans control both the states Senates and their Assemblies, to declare the vote unacceptable and decide to name the electoral college votes of their respective states for Trump. Even if the Governors of some of these states object, the election would go to the US House which will cast one vote per state depending on its current majority representation. This majority stands now in favor of the Republicans at 26.

The Constitution is mute on this aspect but the Supreme Court decided that in cases of doubt about the legitimacy of the ballots, the legislators have such authority. Already, there are media reports that Trump lawyers in Wisconsin are making preparations to do so. A reporter from ”The Atlantic” divulged on MSNBC news show “Morning Joe” that a Republican legislator in Pennsylvania has told him so. Along with Trump and McConnel’s rush to fill the vacancy created by the passing of Justice Ginsburg on the Supreme Court before the elections, 38 days hence, the course of action of Trump to thwart the vote if it does not run in his favor, becomes clear and plausible.

This would not be the first time that the institutions of Democracy are subverted from the inside. Democracy stands on the goodwill of the players to play by the rules and accept the outcomes of the popular vote. Democratic institutions depend on the public resistance to subversions and the public mobilization in their defense. In recent times, Hitler, Mussolini, Lukashenko, Putin, Orban and many others have shown how democracies can slide into autocracies. by not playing by the established rules.

 So, the question of the hour is what can be done by the Republicans as well as the Democrats about this unusual President who abides by no rules and respects no norms, 

The Republicans are the more crucial players. The Speakers of the respective Assemblies and majority Senates leaders in these states can declare their intentions to accept the vote counts by mail on equal footing with voting in person regardless of how long it takes for the count.  It is to be noted that different states have different rules about the delays in counting the vote and in its acceptability. Similarly, the Republicans in the US Senate, at least four of them, can declare that they will not authorize election results unless all votes are counted regardless of how long it takes to count. So far, only three Republicans in the US ‘Senate have declared so. This means that the Senate can still vote with a 51 majority since VP Pence can vote.

As far as the Supreme Court is concerned, only two Senate Republicans have declared that it is unacceptable for the Senate to move on filling the Supreme Court vacancy on the eve of the elections, just a handful of weeks away. Senator McConnell has made himself the big enabler of Trump`s power plays by rushing a hurried cynical vote to pack the Court with like-minded conservatives. This is the same McConnell who refused even to submit the name of Merrick Garland, President Obama`s nominee, for Senate  consideration, because the elections were 10 months away in 2016.

The Democrats are rather in a hapless form, which is their usual stance in critical situations. While they cannot stop the Republicans on the Supreme court nomination, they can use this cynical power- grab by the Republicans to mobilize voters, on the issues before the Court: the health care of Obama`s ACA which risks losing insurance for 100 million Americans with  preexisting conditions during this pandemic, voting down Roe V. Wade and abortion rights, immigration and DACA, voter suppression in manycase coming up, environmental regulations, the right to organize labor unions and the scope of Gun laws. 

Heading towards the November 3 elections, the Democrats should mobilize voters on the issues involved:  the President management of the Coronavirus, the state of the economy, the environment, the tax burden of the middle class, the budget bust, the income distribution problem, the cost of education and the student debt, the nuclear dangers of going out of all the disarmament treaties. There is plenty to incentify voters, to turn them out and to help them in voting.

The results in the Presidential elections must be decisive and unchallengeable. And that would be also helpful in flipping the Senate control to a Democratic majority. All the polls indicate that this is an election for the Democrats to lose ; Mr. Biden is leading in the average poll of the national vote by 9 points and in all battleground states, including Florida.

Vice President Biden might help by not accepting to debate President Trump unless he declares in advance his acceptance of all legitimate votes whether by mail or in person, regardless of the duration of the count. Since the Democrats are in control of the House, they could consider not passing any appropriations until the results are clear and settled.

 On the Senate side, the Democrats can ask for unanimous quorum calls on all matters,, since Senators have to be present and some might be infected by the virus. They can propose that every US senator declares where he /she stands on the legitimacy of voting by mail regardless of the duration of count and the acceptance of the peaceful transfer of power

The Democrats are usually timid, divided and not skillful at such procedural maneuvers. However, the stakes this time are so high because the fate of US democracy hangs in the balance.

 Geneva  25/9/20.

For the last few months, President Trump has declared that he will look at the situation after elections to decide whether to accept the results of the vote or not. He has also thrown in doubt the integrity and legitimacy of mail ballots and claimed without any evidence that the November election will be plagued with fraud. All of that leaves no doubt about the intentions of the President not to submit to the electorates` will if he were not confirmed in his place. President Trump added that the Supreme Court should have 9 justices to look into the results of the elections, an indication that if all fails, he plans to go to court in the hope that his appointees on the Supreme Court would vote in his favor. The President knows that because of the epidemic, a historic number of American voters will vote by mail in this election cycle and that most of the mail vote will be cast by Democrats. Therefore, in line with the Republican effort to suppress voting, especially by minorities, this becomes a calculated effort to refuse the peaceful transfer of power the US has known and has practiced for its 204 years.

This threat is not a simple Trump attempt to create public opinion chaos and garner up media coverage. It is a studied step in several maneuvers he is likely to pursue to stay in power and refuse the will of the voters. Professor Barton Gellman of Dartmouth has outlined a possible legal attempt by Trump to have the legislators in six battleground states, namely, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio and North Carolina, in which the Republicans control both the states Senates and their Assemblies, to declare the vote unacceptable and decide to name the electoral college votes of their respective states to Trump. Even if the Governors of some of these states object, the election would go to the US House which will cast one vote per state depending on its current majority representation. This majority stands now in favor of the Republicans at 26.

The Constitution is mute on this aspect but the Supreme Court has decided that in cases of doubt about the legitimacy of the ballots, the legislators have such an authority. Already, there are media reports that Trump lawyers in Wisconsin are making preparations to do so. A reporter from ”The Atlantic” divulged on MSNBC news show “Morning Joe” that a Republican legislator in Pennsylvania has told him so. Because various states have different rules and regulations for processing and accepting mail voting, hundreds of legal cases have already been filled, especially by Trump`s campaigner. Along with Trump and McConnel’s rush to fill the vacancy created by the passing of Justice Ginsburg on the Supreme Court before the elections, 38 days hence, the course of action of Trump to thwart the vote if it does not run in his favor, becomes clear and plausible.

This would not be the first time that the institutions of Democracy are subverted from the inside. Democracy stands on the goodwill of the players to play by the rules and accept the outcomes of the popular vote. Democratic institutions depend on the public resistance to subversions and the public mobilization in their defense. In recent times, Hitler, Mussolini, Lukashenko, Putin, Orban and many others, have shown how democracies can slide into autocracies. by not playing by the established rules.

 So, the question of the hour is what can be done by the Republicans as well as the Democrats about this unusual President who abides by no rules and respects no norms, 

The Republicans are the more crucial players. The Speakers of the respective Assemblies and majority Senates leaders in these states can declare their intentions to accept the vote counts by mail on equal footing with voting in person regardless of how long it takes for the count.  It is to be noted that different states have different rules about the delays in counting the vote. Similarly, the Republicans in the US Senate, at least four of them, can declare that they will not authorize election results unless all votes are counted regardless of how long it takes to count. So far, only three Republicans in the US ‘Senate have declared so.

As far as the Supreme court is concerned, only two Senate Republicans have declared that it is unacceptable for the Senate to move on filling the Supreme Court vacancy on the eve of the elections, just a handful of weeks away. Senator McConnel has made himself the big enabler of Trump`s power plays by rushing a hurried cynical vote to pack the Court with like-minded conservatives. This is the same McConnel who refused even to submit the name of Merit Garland, President Obama`s nominee for consideration, because the elections were 11 months away in 2016.

The Democrats are in a rather hapless form, which is their usual stance in critical situations. While they cannot stop the Republicans on the Supreme court nomination, they can use this cynical power- grab by the Republicans to mobilize voters, on the issues before the Court: the health care of Obama`s ACA, abortion rights, immigration and DACA, voter suppression in many states, environmental regulations, and Gun laws. 

Heading towards the November 3 elections, the Democrats should mobilize voters on the issues involved:  the President management of the Coronavirus, the state of the economy, the environment, the tax burden of the middle class, the budget bust, the income distribution problem, the nuclear dangers of going out of all the disarmament treaties. There is plenty to incentify voters, to turn them out and to help them in voting. The results in the Presidential elections must be decisive and unchallengeable. And that would be helpful in flipping the Senate control to a Democratic majority. All the polls indicate that this is an election for the Democrats to lose.

Vice President Biden might help by not accepting to debate President Trump unless he declares in advance his acceptance of all legitimate votes whether by mail or in person, regardless of the duration of the count. Since the Democrats are in control of the House, they could consider not passing any appropriations until the results are clear and settled.

 On the Senate side, the Democrats can ask for unanimous quorum calls on all matters, and propose that every US senator declares where he /she stands on the legitimacy of voting by mail regardless of the duration of count and the acceptance of the peaceful transfer of power

The Democrats are usually timid, divided and not skillful at such procedural maneuvers. However, the stakes this time are so high because the fate of US democracy hangs in the balance.

 Geneva  25/9/20.

 

 

 

 

 

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