It's out in the open now. They're making their move. Monday night marked a significant milestone on the Republican Party's long road to outright authoritarianism, and not just because a group of senators who represent a minority of the population voted to confirm a Supreme Court justice nominated by a president who received fewer citizens' votes than his opponent, eight days before an election in which millions have already cast their ballots. Donald Trump, who has never enjoyed the support of a majority of the population, has now installed one third of the Court's justices. Five were planted by Republican presidents who initially took office despite losing the popular vote.
Along the way, the process has been turned into a vaudeville of democracy, as right-wing foundations take huge money from anonymous donors to push nominees through a Senate now refashioned by Mitch McConnell into a right-wing-judge-confirmation machine. As if to drive the point home, McConnell adjourned the Senate as soon as Amy Coney Barrett's vote was through. The chamber will not meet, and there will be no COVID relief bill, until November 9. It's not as if the legislature's upper chamber concerns itself any longer with passing laws. The real job is done. This is the product of a decade's worth of gerrymandering, voter suppression, court-packing, and obstruction. The machinery of the republic has been successfully coopted in a relentless assault on the will of the people. The democratic legitimacy of these institutions is in tatters, but they got their judges.
For her part, Barrett made it clear what her role will be: having been nominated by a president who has explicitly said she will be a key vote on election cases, the new justice saw fit to join him for a campaign ad from the White House, setting some dynamite under the separation of powers and any notion that, as she had the gall to say in her acceptance speech, "The oath that I have solemnly taken tonight means at its core that I will do my job without any fear or favor, and that I will do so independently of both the political branches and of my own preferences." The president and his allies, like Lindsey Graham, have telegraphed that they intend to have the Supreme Court settle the election. Barrett will be expected to do her part, and refused to commit to recusing herself from election cases—despite all of the above—during her confirmation hearings.
One of her new colleagues is already doing his bit. While Barrett was being sworn in by Justice Clarence Thomas, who has lately made noises about overturning decades-old precedents like New York Times v. Sullivan, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch were beginning to position themselves for the battles to come. The moneyed powers that placed these folks in the big leagues expects them to produce the goods when it comes to entrenching corporate power and crushing workers, sure, but they're also there to stop inconvenient people from voting. Or, as Brett Kavanaugh signaled with an opinion that cited the looniest bits of Bush v. Gore, they're there to throw out enough ballots to give the president a chance to win.
Everyone's favorite Washington Nationals Superfan dressed up Donald Trump's vote-by-mail conspiracies in a toga, included a blatant factual error in his argument, and made it clear that he—and the other Federalist Society apparatchiks next to him on the bench—are prepared to go Bush v. Gore II on this election. (Incredibly, all of Kavanaugh, Barrett, and Chief Justice John Roberts worked on the Bush legal team in 2000. William Rehnquist, the then-Chief Justice who delivered the wild concurring opinion Kavanaugh and Gorsuch backed here, began his career as a Republican lawyer attacking voting rights in Arizona. Roberts, who gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013, also started off undermining the franchise in Ronald Reagan's Justice Department.) On Monday, Kavanaugh pushed Trump's theory of the case when it comes to mail voter fraud, suggesting ballots counted after Election Day would "flip" the results of the election. This is pure partisan political framing, as Justice Elena Kagan illustrated in her dissent. There are no election "results" until all the votes are counted. No state reports its official tallies on Election Night: the states are called based on projections from the news networks.
But the various branches of government, supposedly counterweights to one another in order to provide the Checks and Balances you learned about in high school, are truly working in concert now. Deep in the cesspool of his Twitter feed, in amongst the retweets of right-wing psychos and his calls for "POLLWATCHERS" in "Philadepiha," the president offered a view on mail ballots that Twitter was forced to flag as election disinformation.
Big problems and discrepancies with Mail In Ballots all over the USA. Must have final total on November 3rd.
You'll notice that the president and his handpicked Supreme Court justices are right in line on this. If he can find a lead on Election Day, they will all scream in concert that the count must stop. The Court will begin from the conclusion that any uncounted mail ballots should be thrown out, and cook up some half-baked justification for doing so. The president will claim vindication on the basis that the widespread fraud that exists only in his mind—as well as, it seems, Brett Kavanaugh's—has been avoided. His fans will accept this readily, as he's primed them for months to gobble up his bullshit story. On the flip side, they will not accept a losing result, perhaps under any circumstances.
The takeaway here should be clear. The combined forces of the "conservative" movement, which have taken control of the White House, Senate, and Supreme Court, will do anything in their power to steal the election. They got away with it in 2000, and that was without the fully formed bubble of unreality in which this entire enterprise—and the millions of everyday Americans who have pledged complete allegiance to it—now resides. It would be right in line with everything the Republican Party has done in recent years, because power is its own justification, the means and the end. This extends to Republican state legislatures stripping the governor's office of its powers before a Democrat can wield them. Those same state legislatures have gerrymandered themselves into insulation from the will of voters. This is top-to-bottom. When challenged, they say things like, "this is a republic, not a democracy," as if those terms are in contradiction. What they're really saying is that they used their power to entrench their power, and if you want power, you should get some power. Oh, and they're also saying, fuck you.
The Democratic leadership in Congress, particularly the Senate, cannot be relied upon to prosecute this case or win the fight. This authoritarian scourge must be crushed at the ballot box with overwhelming force, and the best way to do that, at this point, is to vote early in person. If you have not yet mailed your ballot, don't put it in the mail. Drop it off wherever possible, and do it as soon as possible. Do not wait for them to take it away from you.
And beyond that, it does appear as if the American people still committed to majoritarian government—not to mention a multiracial secular democracy, which the United States still remains—will have to be prepared to march. If the Supreme Court attempts to insert itself into this election to prevent the full counting of votes, citizens will need to assemble peacefully in the streets. This authoritarian movement stands on the precipice of cementing itself not just in the political positions of the federal government (which now includes, beyond a doubt, the Supreme Court), but in the federal bureaucracy as well. There is no qualification left to serve in this administration beyond obedience. You are either on The Leader's team or you are an enemy of the state. This is incompatible with democracy, but it's perfectly in line with the kind of society Donald Trump and his pathetic allies would have the United States of America become.
Things are moving very fast now. There is one chance left to put a stop to this.
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