Friday, July 31, 2020

#213 / What Will We Do Then?

Neil H. Buchanan is an economist and legal scholar who holds the James J. Freeland Eminent Scholar Chair in Taxation at the University of Florida's Levin College of Law. In a column published in a fairly recent edition of Verdict, Buchanan asks this question: 

Buchanan takes it as a given that our current president, if he is not reelected, will refuse to leave office. He is not the only one suggesting this kind of possibility. In fact, the president himself seems to be contemplating this as a real possibility! Thoughtful political commentators are taking seriously the president's suggestion that maybe the 2020 election should be "delayed."

Personally, I take it as a given that the president would love to "cancel" the election, since he seems on track to lose. Assuming that he is not successful in doing that, I also take it as a given that the president will seek to use every dirty trick in the book to "win" the election, and that he will utilize the techniques of voter suppression and flat-out voter fraud. Whether that kind of illegitimate conduct occurs, or not, it is quite possible that Donald J. Trump will lose the presidential election in 2020. Yes, even if he cheats! No one should be assuming that Donald J. Trump is going to "lose." Definitely not a given! But while we can't count on him losing, that is certainly possible. Increasingly, that looks not only possible, but likely. Yes, even if he cheats!

Because this is true, Buchanan's hypothesis that if Trump loses he will simply refuse to leave the office of the presidency needs to be taken seriously. It is wise to think ahead. Others are definitely on the same page. Bill McKibben, for instance, has written about the need to "get prepared" in The New Yorker.

Our government belongs to the people. It is OUR government. Luckily (as Hannah Arendt has pointed out on numerous occasions) the basic unit of government in our system is NOT the federal government. We are the United States of America. Our state governments are the fundamental governing entities in our political and governmental system. That means that state governmental action will be critically important if the events that Buchanan hypothesizes do, in fact, come to pass. Let's start making sure that our state leaders understand that!

Getting mentally prepared (and otherwise prepared) for the "worst case" scenario is always a worthwhile endeavor, and one way to prepare for what Buchanan is predicting is to talk about this "worst case" scenario with friends, and neighbors, and acquaintances. We should start having these conversations now - and not on social media, either, at least, only secondarily. Firing off social media postings is not the same thing as engaging in the kind of personal exchanges that can lead to personal commitments to refuse to let illegitimate claims derail our democracy. 

In the American Revolution, those who acted to create a new nation pledged to each other "their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor." I am pledging mine, right now. I will not submit to an illegitimate claim on behalf of anyone. This is OUR government.

Such personal commitments - pledges we make to each other - will be vital if the worst does come to pass.  These pictures of peaceful protestors, taken after the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, suggest to me that I am "not the only one." We are not alone here, friends.

So, do think ahead. Talk to your friends, neighbors, and acquaintances. Let us all take that pledge. Let us all resolve, right now, and in advance, that we will refuse to accept what Buchanan predicts will happen. In fact, widespread refusal (coupled with resolute action) will be enough. If we were to acquiesce, that would be the end of the American experience of democratic self-government. 

But we are not going to do that, are we? We are not going to let that happen, right?

With our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor, we must be clear with ourselves, and all those we know, in person, that any attempt to derail our democracy by not respecting the results of our next presidential election "will not stand." 

A Republican President used that phrase (in a different context). It fits right in to the Buchanan hypothesis!

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