The recent visit by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi to Athens is but another episode in the close and amical relationship between the two countries over recent years. The bilateral relations between Egypt and Greece have steadily grown until the two countries have become a power bloc in the Eastern Mediterranean reinforced by diplomatic, military, financial and cultural ties. During his visit to Athens, Al-Sisi met with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou. He confirmed the ever-strengthening ties between the two countries in statements made during the subsequent press conference, in which he said that “there is a consensus” between Egypt and Greece to stand up against regional threats, including by standing together against the transfer of jihadist fighters and weapons to militias in Libya. Egypt reiterated its position that unilateral violations of security in the Eastern Mediterranean region should be confronted. The two leaders agreed on the global dimensions of the problem of terrorism and on the need to effectively face it. Officials from the two countries then participated in the 24th round of joint discussions covering multiple issues of cooperation and of regional and international interest. The visit confirmed the fact that Greece and Egypt have been working closely together over recent years on all levels. Two characteristic events in this cooperation have been the signing in August of the maritime demarcation agreement establishing Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) and the creation of the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF). The EEZ agreement partially demarcated national EEZs in the Mediterranean southeast of Crete and northeast of the Matrouh governorate in Egypt. According to Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri, the agreement “permits Egypt and Greece to go ahead with maximising the benefits from the riches available in the exclusive economic zones of both countries, particularly promising gas and oil reserves.” The agreement is also the explicit result of the joint will of the two countries to overcome unfounded territorial claims in the Mediterranean by revisionist and aggressive state actors. The EMGF creates a new financial power bloc that can cooperate effectively with the European Union. Much has thus already been done in terms of the rapprochement between the two countries, but specific additional steps could further enhance and deepen the strategic cooperation of these two pivotal countries in the Mediterranean. First, on a diplomatic level Greek-Egyptian cooperation could unfold further in various fields. In Libya, the necessary political solution to the present conflict and the restoration of essential government functions and state institutions throughout the country requires the dissolution and removal of the militias still active there. As Egypt has consistently stressed, any eventual solution to the Libyan crisis must be based on the outcomes of the Berlin Conference and the Cairo Declaration on the conflict in the country. Moreover, the EEZ agreement signed in August between Egypt and Greece is only a partial demarcation agreement, and it needs to be completed with a new and fuller one. This could coincide with an EEZ agreement between Greece and Cyprus, such that the three states would have cooperated on the delimitation of EEZs in the region. Second, on an economic level Greek investment could be increased in Egypt, as could the amount of bilateral commercial relations. More importantly, Greece could promote the idea of a customs union between Egypt and the European Union, a much more logical step than the EU’s customs union with Turkey. This would be a considerable upgrade of the 2004 EU-Egypt Association Agreement as well of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership. A potential customs union of this sort would open up a growing market of over 100 million people to European companies and investments, and it would also greatly benefit the economic prospects of Egypt itself. Greece could act as an intermediary state with the EU bureaucracy and decision-making institutions in order to promote such a customs union, in which the evolution of the EMGF and energy cooperation would also be fundamental not only for economic gains, but also for regional stability. Third, on a military level Egypt and Greece could upgrade their cooperation, especially in the naval and airforce fields. Exchange programmes for officers and administrative personnel, joint exercises, the temporary stationing of military forces in each national territory, and joint naval patrols could all help to create further bilateral bonds. Another idea would be to create areas of enhanced NATO cooperation with powerful actors such as Egypt. Greece as a NATO member could also help to promote Egypt as a valuable partner in both Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean region. In this context of enhanced bilateral and regional cooperation, Egypt and Greece can now work to reap the fruit of a power nexus that should prove to be hegemonic in the Eastern Mediterranean region and help to safeguard the stability and prosperity of all the actors involved.
While much of the world has been preoccupied with the President s refusal to acknowledge his 2020 election loss to Joe Biden, Donald Trump has been moving building blocks in a way that, if successful, could have a significant impact on America s security abroad and safety at home.On Monday, the Pentagon issued a "warning notice" to theater commanders to begin a further, substantial drawdown of US forces from both Afghanistan and Iraq by January 15, five days before Trump will leave office.This follows Trump s preparatory move, a takedown of the upper reaches of the Pentagon at a critical and most sensitive moment in national security -- the interregnum between two administrations. Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper last Monday and named Christopher Miller, the former director of the National Counterterrorism Center, acting secretary in his place. Miller s new chief of staff will be Kash Patel, who tried to discredit investigations into the Trump campaign s contacts with Russia while he was an aide to former House Intelligence Committee chair Devin Nunes. Retired Army Col. Douglas Macgregor, who has made racist and xenophobic comments and called for the use of deadly force at the US-Mexico border, will serve as Miller s senior adviser. The shake-up also involved replacing James Anderson, who resigned from the Pentagon s top policy role on Tuesday, with retired Army Brig. Gen. Anthony Tata, who, according to CNN s KFile, has made a number of Islamophobic tweets, some of which he later deleted, and who once labeled President Obama a "terrorist leader." What do these new appointees all have in common? Each of them is likely willing and prepared to implement Trump s military goal of withdrawing US troops around the world. While Trump, who spent years slamming US involvement in "endless wars," has announced drawdowns in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, thousands of US troops are still deployed in the region. Trump wanted all American forces out of Afghanistan by the end of the year, and sources told CNN s Jake Tapper that the White House may have directed the Defense Department purge because Esper and his team were pushing back on a premature withdrawal there.Still, if the warning notices are carried through, some 2,500 troops would still be left in each theater -- though Trump s goal had been zero troops by the time he left office. It was unclear whether leaving such a small number of American troops in bitterly contested areas could endanger the safety of those still deployed. Miller issued a memo to the Defense Department just after midnight Saturday that read, "Ending wars requires compromise and partnership. We met the challenge; we gave it our all. Now, it s time to come home." Macgregor, on the other hand, made his views apparent when he told Tucker Carlson in 2019 that the US should withdraw troops from Afghanistan and Syria immediately. Even before the latest Pentagon reshuffle, the US timeline to withdraw troops from Afghanistan was wildly inconsistent. US military leaders have stressed that a withdrawal there would be contingent on certain conditions, including the Taliban breaking ties with al Qaeda and making progress in peace talks with the Afghan government. Both of these conditions have not yet been met, and prematurely withdrawing US troops would not only destroy the credibility of our country, but also remove any incentive to achieve these goals. The situation in Afghanistan is fraught. In a quarterly report to Congress on October 30, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction reported that the "average daily enemy-initiated attacks in Afghanistan were 50% higher this quarter (July-September) than last quarter" and "above seasonal norms." The Department of Defense believes the Taliban "is calibrating its use of violence to harass and undermine" the Afghan government while keeping these attacks "at a level it perceives is within the bounds of the [US -- Taliban] agreement, probably to encourage a US troop withdrawal and set favorable conditions for a post-withdrawal Afghanistan." A US troop withdrawal could pave the way for the Taliban to return promptly to power. This would only create a bigger headache for the Biden administration. The last time the United States ousted the Taliban from power, after they had been found to be harboring al Qaeda leaders as they were planning the 9/11 terrorist attacks, it took an invasion force of about 2,500. But over time, that force peaked at 100,000 US troops in 2011.Trump has also expressed a desire to move American forces out of Syria and Iraq, although concrete plans have often conflicted with the President s own messaging. After Trump announced the US would withdraw from Syria in October 2019, a new wave of troops poured in, leaving the total number in Syria largely unchanged. In August, Trump announced all US troops would leave Iraq "shortly," and about three weeks later, a top military commander said the US would be cutting the number of troops there in half, to about 3,000. Now, with the new brass in charge at the Pentagon, Trump could have a clearer path to achieving his goals. In Iraq and Syria, "an abrupt US pullout removes one of the more major forms of direct and indirect pressure on the countless militia groups controlled by Iran," Phillip Smyth, a Soref Fellow at The Washington Institute, and one of America s leading experts on Mideast militias, told me in an e-mail exchange. "Ideologically and in terms of long-term goals, Tehran wants US forces out, and they want to use any pullout as an example of the US as a paper tiger." An American withdrawal, Smyth points out, "would enable Iran to use its militias to fill the vacuum left by departing U.S. forces. Smyth has tracked the emergence of around 20 new front groups, and all have demanded US pullout of Iraq. History shows us that transitions in US governments can be a vulnerable time. The bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, took place on December 21, 1988, as George H. W. Bush was preparing to take over from President Ronald Reagan. And in his final weeks in office in December 1992, Bush, preparing to turn over the presidency to Bill Clinton, ordered 25,000 American troops into Somalia -- which led less than a year later to the deaths of 18 American soldiers in the Black Hawk Down incident. Now, the US focus on Trump s refusal to concede the election and Biden being sidelined from national security briefings could encourage anti-US forces inclined to profit from any perception of American weakness or hesitation.The costs of pulling US troops out of volatile regions prematurely could drag the US back into war all over again. This would be a horrific burden on the Biden administration, especially given the coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout. This is not the time for the US to let its guard down and abandon conflicts that will only pose a new threat to our national security -- even if it is being done largely to fulfill Trump s campaign promises rather than because he wants to leave his successor with a toxic legacy to clean up.
President Donald Trump vowed over a week ago to unleash an imposing barrage of legal challenges to the result of an election that is, and should universally be recognized as, over and done. In a statement last weekend, he vowed that, on Monday, November 7, "Our campaign will start prosecuting our case in court to ensure election laws are fully upheld and the rightful winner is seated."Well, last Monday has come and gone. Turns out, all Trump s attorneys have delivered is a ridiculous mishmash of lawsuits that run the gamut from weak to entirely meritless to downright frivolous. Trump and his attorneys are humiliating themselves, and they re damaging our democracy in the process. There s no delicate way to put this: Thus far, Trump, his campaign and their surrogates have gotten absolutely pummeled in the courts. One of the great things about our legal system is that it requires actual proof — not tweets, not public statements, not viral videos — but actual verifiable evidence. And the Trump campaign s efforts to, well, trump up evidence of voter fraud have failed spectacularly. In one case filed in Georgia, the Trump campaign alleged that 53 ballots had been counted even though they had been cast after the deadline. But both of the Trump campaign s witnesses testified they did not actually know when the ballots had been received, and two other witnesses confirmed that the ballots had been received on time. That case was quickly dismissed. In another case in Michigan, the Trump campaign claimed that certain late-arriving ballots had been counted improperly. Their "evidence" was a Republican election observer who claimed that an unnamed poll worker showed her a Post-it note of unknown provenance alleging improper ballot counting. That s not evidence, that s hearsay piled up on hearsay. That case, too, was quickly tossed out.Last week, the Trump campaign somehow managed to lose or voluntarily drop nine different cases in one day. Indeed, the Trump campaign and its surrogates have even begun to pull back their own lawsuits, giving up on their case in Arizona and dropping their appeal of a loss in Nevada. And, on Monday, voters in four states dropped their lawsuits seeking to contest election results in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Even the lawyers are jumping ship; multiple firms have now abandoned the Trump campaign s effort to dispute the election results. The Trump campaign won one minor case in Pennsylvania, and they still might get lucky and win another here or there -- among the many they have scattered across the country. But even if they end up with a few victories, it will likely be to no avail. Given President-elect Joe Biden s Electoral College margin of 306-232, even if Trump miraculously reversed the outcomes in, say, Pennsylvania (with its 20 electoral votes) and Georgia (16 electoral votes), Biden still wins. And Biden s margins in those states, and other key swing states, run to the tens of thousands of votes. Trump s lawsuits thus far haven t even come close to proving (or in some cases have not even alleged) voter fraud on anything near that scale.Judges so far have gotten it right. They ve tossed out the preposterously infirm lawsuits nearly as quickly as pro-Trump attorneys have filed them. As a result, our judiciary has rightly prevented the bogus "massive fraud" narrative from taking any further hold than it already has gathered from the wild pronouncements of Trump and his enablers. It s tempting to have a laugh at the losing string of Trump campaign lawsuits. But those bringing these lawsuits deserve derision for their stubborn, pathetic attempts to conjure massive fraud where no such thing exists. However, they also are doing something more insidious: They are undermining public confidence in our election system and our democratic process. Now, your questions Tim (Delaware): Could Republican state legislatures appoint their own slates of presidential electors to vote for President Donald Trump, even if their states voted for Biden? This won t happen, for both legal and political reasons. Legally, Article II of the Constitution does grant state legislatures the power to determine the manner of choosing presidential electors. But every state has long had laws on the books assigning presidential electors based on the popular vote of that state (most states assign electors on an all-or-nothing basis; Nebraska and Maine appoint electors based on the popular vote in each congressional district). While state legislatures could change the manner of appointing their electors, they would need to do so by (1) passing a new law, and (2) doing it before the election for which the new rule would become effective. As a matter of basic fairness and as a legal principle, it would be nearly impossible for a state legislature to change the rules of appointment after the voters have cast their ballots in a given election. As a political matter, it is very unlikely that state legislatures would even seriously consider appointing a slate of electors, after the election, contrary to their states popular votes. No state legislature of either party has shown any serious inclination to even consider such a precipitous, politically self-destructive move. Don t lose sleep over this one.Gordon (Texas): If the Senate ends up split 50-50, who controls the majority and the agenda? Republicans currently hold a 50-48 advantage over Democrats for the upcoming Senate session, which will begin in January 2021, with two Georgia runoffs pending. If Democrats win both those Georgia runoffs, the Senate will be split 50-50. Article I of the Constitution provides that the vice president breaks a tie vote in the Senate: "The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the US Senate, but shall have no vote, unless they be equally divided." (This is, interestingly, the only specific duty of the vice president outlined in the Constitution, other than succeeding to the presidency upon death or resignation of the president). With Kamala Harris soon to take office as Vice President, the Democrats would then hold the tiebreaker advantage. Tim (Texas): Are there any legal requirements to become a justice on the Supreme Court? There are no age, residency or nationality requirements to become a Supreme Court justice, unlike many other of our highest public offices. For example, the US Constitution requires that the president must be at least 35 years old, be a "natural born citizen" of the United States and have 14 years of residency in the country. A US senator must be 30 years old, with nine years of US citizenship and must reside in the state he or she represents. And a US representative must be at least 25 years old, with seven years of citizenship and must reside in the state he or she represents.The Constitution does not even specify that a Supreme Court justice must be a lawyer. Two justices who served in the 1940s and 1950s, James Byrnes and Robert Jackson, studied law but did not hold formal law degrees (though Jackson was awarded a degree the same year he was confirmed to the court). Three questions to watch 1. Will the Trump campaign get any traction in its ongoing effort to contest election results? 2. Will the incoming Biden administration take legal action to compel the General Services Administration to turn over transition funding? 3. Will we begin to see Trump issue pardons during his final weeks in office?
While the world was closely following the nail-biting US presidential elections between incumbent President Donald Trump and former vice-president Joe Biden, things were heating up somewhere else on the planet: in the northernmost part of Ethiopia in Tigray. Out of the blue, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, ordered a “war” in this “defiant” region. As in the case with similar incidents in the history of conventional modern warfare, he said he had ordered a “military intervention” into Tigray as a response to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front’s (TPLF) attack on the Federal Northern Military Division located in Mekele, the capital city of Tigray, a story which US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has seemed to uphold. Hours after the attack on the Ethiopian federal forces, Pompeo said he was “concerned” over reports of the TPLF’s attack on the northern division. Back in the old days, when Abiy Ahmed and Debretsion Gebremichael, president of the TPLF, were pictured “in harmony” together, events showed that this “honeymoon” could not last much longer. In a bid to solicit support, particularly among his fellow Oromos and the Amhara, both arch-rivals of the Tigrayans, Ahmed allowed a “rift” to grow between the federal government of Ethiopia, on the one hand, and the people of Tigray, on the other. Though TPLF-ruled Ethiopia was not a land of milk and honey, the situation, at least in terms of containing growing ethnic dissidence and promoting economic achievements, was far better than it is in Ethiopia today. But Ahmed tolerated quasi-official, and sometimes official, media campaigns that “devilishly portrayed” Tigrayans as the sole cause of Ethiopia’s plight. He also turned a deaf ear to frequent internal fighting between Tigray and its neighbours, particularly the Amhara. Under Abiy, the cracks have grown wider even among his fellow Oromos, who have burnt his book “Medemer,” which contains both the 42-year-old leader’s picture and his “ruling philosophy.” Ahmed’s really intolerable sin remains a “delay” in the Ethiopian general elections because the Covid-19 pandemic will not allow the government to “safely” conduct them, according to a government statement, though in fact Ethiopia’s overall cases, including deaths, barely equate to a single day of new infections in the United States, which successfully held its presidential elections. They barely equate, either, to a similar African case, that of Egypt, which held both its Senate and House of Representatives’ elections following strict anti-Covid-19 measures. Plainly, Ahmed’s government does not seem to be fearing for the lives of the people of Ethiopia, particularly after the TPLF itself revealed the pretext by successfully holding its own elections, which the government did not endorse. Apparently, Ahmed’s political career and future would have been on the cusp of “premature” termination had the general elections been held on time. In other words, his philosophy, best summarised in the Prosperity Party (PP), would have been a fairy tale for bedtime. Militarily speaking, was Ahmed aware of facts on the ground before ordering the offensive in Tigray? The answer may not be satisfactory for the Ethiopian premier. First of all, the Northern Military Division that was stationed in Mekele as a means of deterrence of any possible Eritrean military intervention in Ethiopia after the two-year border war between the two nations in 1998-2000 is believed to be home to roughly 80 per cent of the Ethiopian National Defence Force’s (ENDF) finest heavy artillery. By simple maths and if the TPLF’s side of the story is correct, if this division has been defeated and is now under the control of the TPLF (or even if it is false, but if the TPLF has managed to have the upper hand there), the ENDF as a whole will face fierce military resistance that may not favour the federal forces and will surely last for a long time. Second, has the Ethiopian army prepared for a Tigray war or even readied itself in case one breaks out? Berhanu Jula Gelalcha, Ethiopia’s deputy chief of defence staff, has the answer. “Our country has entered into a war it didn’t anticipate… it is an aimless and shameful war,” he said. Another proof that this “aimless and shameful war” has not been prepared for, at least technically, is the fact that the Ethiopian prime minister has ordered three top military officers who were laid off a long time ago to go back on duty. The three are Yohannes Gebremeskel, a Tigrayan who is known for his vehement critique of the TPLF, Abebaw Tadesse, a former commander of the central command who hails from the Agew/Qemant small ethnic group (in Gondar in northwestern Ethiopia, which is usually on bad terms with the Tigrayans), and Bacha Debele, an Oromo who was a commander of the Eastern Corps, better known for its ruthless quashing of the Oromo rebellion against the Meles Zenawi government in Ethiopia in 2002. The aim of the order is clear: the ENDF is lacking in the kind of “seasoned” leadership that can handle combat, particularly an expectedly lengthy one. On the other side of the fence, the Tigrayans seem to have mastered the war’s technicalities. After three decades in power, they have swept all top-level military and intelligence posts. Plus, they have experienced warfare, either because they have experienced it in real combat conditions during the war with Eritrea, or because they have frequently fought due to repeated “skirmishes” with Eritrea after the border war ended or with their neighbouring ethnicities, particularly the Amhara. The TPLF has also prepared its own forces in anticipation of this moment. President of the TPLF Debretsion Gebremichael clearly put it this way, when he said that “we have prepared our military of Special Forces, not to be in need of a war, but if the worst comes to defend ourselves.” It is estimated that Tigray has some 250,000 highly-trained Special Forces and militias that, being led by seasoned Tigrayan military leaders and intelligence officers, may shift the balance in their region’s favour. Ahmed considers the TPLF to be a “rogue” element within the country that must be “eliminated” for what he loves to call “stability” to be brought about, in effect bringing to an end the last hub of dissidence that categorically rejects his political dominance and sees him as a “former prime minister” as his “legitimate” mandate ended on 5 October this year. The now PP-dominated Ethiopian House of Federation has authorised the formation of a pro-Ahmed puppet administration in Tigray, removing the one headed by once a friend and now a foe, Debretsion Gebremichael. To think that this would make things as easy as rolling off a log is really a sheer act of imbecility. To stay ahead of the game, the incumbent government is desperately seeking help from Tigray’s archrivals in both Oromia and Amhara. Shelling can be heard from the latter’s border with Tigray, while some of the Ethiopian military’s total of 24 fighter jets continue to hover over Mekele’s skies, intimidating millions now that the government has postponed the elections for their “safety.” The Ahmed-led government may be looking for a quick victory, relying on generous Israeli support, as it has leaked “used-to-be-confidential” information on collaboration between the Ethiopian Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) and Israel on the “sharing of information and technology transfer” with the “bright” goal of “maintaining” stability in the Horn of Africa. But no matter how the war ends in Tigray, the only certain truth is that Ethiopia will never be the same again.
On Thursday, 12 November, the Central Bank of Egypt s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meets to decide on the direction of interest rates. In its last meeting, around six weeks ago, the MPC unexpectedly cut interest rates by 50 basis points down to 8.75 per cent for the overnight deposit rate, 9.75 per cent for the lending rate, and a similar rate for the CBE s main operation and discount rates. Some economists support the idea that the MPC could cut interest rates to boost economic growth through lowering the cost of the private sector acquiring credit, especially that a new Covid-19 wave, with its repercussions of economic slowdown, is imminent. Egypt s economic growth is expected to record 3.3 per cent in the current fiscal year 2020/2021, down from 3.5 per cent in FY2019/2020, according to Fitch Solutions. In its monthly roundup, Fitch pointed out that weak prospects for a rebound in key sources of revenue such as tourism and remittances will put the brakes on growth. Meanwhile, a handful of observers believe the CBE has room to manoeuvre another rate cut, ruling out the risk of outflows from pound denominated debt held by foreigners. Egypt offers investors in its Egyptian pound denominated sovereigns one of the highest yields among emerging markets. No wonder that foreign holdings of Egyptian debt more than doubled to $2.1 billion between May and mid-October, signalling increased appetite for risky emerging markets assets and improving confidence in the Egyptian economy. Accordingly, the pound gained almost three per cent since June and is expected to remain stable till the end of the year. However, others warned that while cutting interest rates works in favour of the government because it means a lower cost of debt, they urged the CBE to keep rates unchanged to prevent the risk of investors dumping domestic debt. Moreover, they warned of how lower interest rates would affect a large segment of society that depends on yields on savings instruments, such as deposit certificates, for an income. The CBE lowered interest rates by 3.5 per cent so far this year and last month cancelled 15 per cent-yielding certificates of deposits. The MPC bases its decisions on two main factors: inflation rates and the rate of GDP growth. When both are low, the MPC cuts rates to stimulate the economy. The CBE, as well as a number of investment banks, expects inflation to fall on the lower end of its 6-12 per cent target range in the fourth quarter of 2020 due to weak demand. Annual urban inflation inched up to 4.5 per cent in October, compared to 3.7 in September and 3.5 in August, its lowest level since 2005. A sharp drop in inflation figures could result in consultations with the IMF, which would most probably result in more interest rate cuts. Under the $5.2 billion stand-by facility Egypt finalised with the IMF earlier this year, the government should have consulted with the IMF executive board when the inflation rate dipped below four per cent in September. Meanwhile, the most recent news on the economy is positive. The American rating agency Standard and Poor s (S&P) recently affirmed Egypt s B sovereign credit rating with a stable outlook, despite the risks related to Covid-19. “The weakening of external and government debt metrics will be temporary, and gradually improve from 2022, supported by higher GDP and current account receipts (CARs),” S&P said. Egypt s foreign currency reserves and access to debt markets are expected to cover financing needs and upcoming maturities for the coming 12 months, the rating agency added. Egypt s foreign reserves stood at $39.22 billion in October buoyed by a $5 billion Eurobond sale and a $750 million green bond offering, and $8 billion in IMF support. This is a blessing given that the fallout from Covid-19 will mean lower tourism revenues and lower remittances, two main hard currency earners for Egypt. S&P forecasts receipts to improve by 2022.
As I sit to write this piece four days after the election, Joe Biden is leading in enough states to make it clear that he will win enough electoral college votes to become the 46th president of the United States. What was also clear is that Republicans will likely retain control of the Senate and the Democrats, while still the majority in the House, have lost some of the seats they had picked up in 2018. We are a deeply divided country. That much should be clear. If this were a normal election year, that might be the end of the story. Alas, it is not. In 2020, nothing is normal and this crazy election is not going to be over for a while. Donald Trump is not now nor has he ever been psychologically able to accept the reality of losing or being second best. Even when he doesn’t win or isn’t the best, he has been prone to create “an alternate reality” in which he convinces himself: that he really has won; that he was a victim of someone else’s cheating; that someone else is responsible for the setback; or that he is the victim of a conspiracy. In a very real sense, Donald Trump has been preparing the ground for contesting a loss ever since he was first elected president in 2016. Not able to accept that Hillary Clinton had won more popular votes, he charged that millions of his opponent’s votes were fraudulent. He even appointed a partisan presidential commission to validate his claim. Despite the fact that the commission was comprised of his supporters, it disbanded after several months, unable to prove any widespread cheating. Nevertheless, Trump has continued to make this same charge about fraudulent 2016 votes. For the past three months Trump has been claiming that Democrats were going to try to steal this year’s election. He made the groundless accusation that hundreds of thousands of mail-in votes were going be used to “stuff ballot boxes” or that votes for him were going to be tossed out in order to elect his opponent. Recognising the danger posed by the growing pandemic, legislatures in several states, with bipartisan support, had approved plans to provide voters with a mail-in option. Polls show that Democrats, apparently more concerned with the health risks of in-person voting, took advantage of this option. At the same time, a sizable majority of Republican voters waited until election day to cast their ballots. Because in-person votes were counted first, on election night, as expected, Trump was in the lead. But as the mail-in votes were slowly counted, Biden’s totals eventually eclipsed Trump’s, putting Biden in the lead. In response, Trump angrily tweeted “STOP THE COUNT” and in some cities his supporters stormed polling places echoing this demand. The president’s lawyers filed a number of lawsuits demanding, among other things, that many legally cast mail-in votes be disqualified. And on Thursday, Trump delivered shocking remarks from the White House calling into question the integrity of the entire election. A number of Republican governors and senators were so stunned that they felt compelled to quickly reject the president’s behaviour. What’s clear is that President Trump will not accept losing, will not concede, and will use every available path to challenge the outcome. He and his supporters are continuing to call the election fraudulent and calling on supporters to “go to war” to protest the vote. The misinformation they are spreading on social media is flagrantly false. It is designed cast doubt on the entire process and to incite anger, causing confusion and unrest, with the possibility of violence. The uncertainty created by all this will only lead to deeper division, casting a pall not only over this election, but the very foundations of our democracy. We will in all likelihood not see a peaceful transfer of power. That much is clear. What is also clear is that when Joe Biden is sworn in as president, he will inherit this division and the dysfunctional political system that has spawned it. Gone are the days when despite differences Republicans and Democrats worked together to solve pressing problems facing the nation. When Newt Gingrich was elected speaker of the House of Representatives, he ushered in an era of hyper-partisanship that worked to stymie then President Bill Clinton’s every move. When Barack Obama was elected president, then-minority Senate leader Mitch McConnell declared that he would do everything in his power to ensure that Obama was a one-term president. After McConnell became majority leader, Republicans routinely blocked Obama’s appointments and refused to pass compromise legislation. At the ceremony announcing his last Supreme Court nominee, Trump noted that it is the responsibility of a president to fill vacancies in federal courts. He chided Obama for being irresponsible, noting that when he entered the Oval Office in 2017, there were over 100 court vacancies. What Trump didn’t acknowledge was that the reason for these unfilled judgeships wasn’t because Obama hadn’t named replacements, but because McConnell wouldn’t let the Senate approve them. What’s clear is that unless Democrats can win the few Senate seats that remain to be contested in January 2021, Biden will confront the same obstructionism. To succeed, Biden may have to play by the rules Republicans have created. To get things done, he will be forced to issue executive orders, by-passing the Senate where it is possible to do so. This was what Obama was forced to do. He will also need to use executive orders to undo the damage to our regulatory and immigration systems by President Trump’s excessive use of executive orders. At the same time, not only President Biden and Democrats, but Republicans as well, will need to deal with the reality that Trumpism will remain a potent force in American politics. When the Republican Party funded and organised the Birther Movement and the Tea Party to counter Obama’s appeal, they ushered in a wave of race-based populism. This may have served the Republicans’ short-term goal of taking control of Congress in 2010, but the angry beast they created back then devoured them first. Across the country, fearful of alienating this base, more traditional conservative Republicans felt forced to take increasingly hardline uncompromising stances. When Donald Trump first entered the 2016 presidential contest, the Republican establishment dismissed his candidacy, certain that a more traditional Mitt Romney-style conservative Republican would win the nomination. They were wrong. And despite their initial disgust for Trump’s xenophobia and bigotry, crude and vulgar language, and his shocking incitement to violence, they eventually fell in line, once again fearful of angering his supporters — the very base they had helped to create. As a result of their complicity, new and more virulent movements have taken root in this base, from the QAnon conspiracy cult to the xenophobic and racist Christian Patriot churches, and militant groups like the Proud Boys, the Boogaloo Bois, and a host of armed militias that have sprung up nationwide. All of which have received varying degrees of endorsement from the president. The fact that Donald Trump won the votes of over 70 million Americans means that while he has lost the election, his appeal will remain. Republicans will either make a concerted effort to tame this phenomenon or they will see not only the continued drift of their party toward extremism, but the danger of violence in cities across the US. This too is clear. It seems clear that, as Donald Trump said a few weeks ago, “This will not end well.” Far from being over, this election may very well continue to play out for weeks to come. Trump and the Republican Party have been telegraphing their strategy for over a month now. They will continue to challenge to validity of the vote in court. They will demand recounts. They will incite their followers to demonstrate at vote-counting facilities. In the end, many Americans will lose faith in the electoral process and America’s democracy will be tarnished in the eyes of the world. That much is clear.
As I sit to write this piece four days after the election, Joe Biden is leading in enough states to make it clear that he will win enough electoral college votes to become the 46th president of the United States. What was also clear is that Republicans will likely retain control of the Senate and the Democrats, while still the majority in the House, have lost some of the seats they had picked up in 2018. We are a deeply divided country. That much should be clear. If this were a normal election year, that might be the end of the story. Alas, it is not. In 2020, nothing is normal and this crazy election is not going to be over for a while. Donald Trump is not now nor has he ever been psychologically able to accept the reality of losing or being second best. Even when he doesn t win or isn t the best, he has been prone to create “an alternate reality” in which he convinces himself: that he really has won; that he was a victim of someone else s cheating; that someone else is responsible for the setback; or that he is the victim of a conspiracy. In a very real sense, Donald Trump has been preparing the ground for contesting a loss ever since he was first elected president in 2016. Not able to accept that Hillary Clinton had won more popular votes, he charged that millions of his opponent s votes were fraudulent. He even appointed a partisan presidential commission to validate his claim. Despite the fact that the commission was comprised of his supporters, it disbanded after several months, unable to prove any widespread cheating. Nevertheless, Trump has continued to make this same charge about fraudulent 2016 votes. For the past three months Trump has been claiming that Democrats were going to try to steal this year s election. He made the groundless accusation that hundreds of thousands of mail-in votes were going be used to “stuff ballot boxes” or that votes for him were going to be tossed out in order to elect his opponent. Recognising the danger posed by the growing pandemic, legislatures in several states, with bipartisan support, had approved plans to provide voters with a mail-in option. Polls show that Democrats, apparently more concerned with the health risks of in-person voting, took advantage of this option. At the same time, a sizable majority of Republican voters waited until election day to cast their ballots. Because in-person votes were counted first, on election night, as expected, Trump was in the lead. But as the mail-in votes were slowly counted, Biden s totals eventually eclipsed Trump s, putting Biden in the lead. In response, Trump angrily tweeted “STOP THE COUNT” and in some cities his supporters stormed polling places echoing this demand. The president s lawyers filed a number of lawsuits demanding, among other things, that many legally cast mail-in votes be disqualified. And on Thursday, Trump delivered shocking remarks from the White House calling into question the integrity of the entire election. A number of Republican governors and senators were so stunned that they felt compelled to quickly reject the president s behaviour. What s clear is that President Trump will not accept losing, will not concede, and will use every available path to challenge the outcome. He and his supporters are continuing to call the election fraudulent and calling on supporters to “go to war” to protest the vote. The misinformation they are spreading on social media is flagrantly false. It is designed cast doubt on the entire process and to incite anger, causing confusion and unrest, with the possibility of violence. The uncertainty created by all this will only lead to deeper division, casting a pall not only over this election, but the very foundations of our democracy. We will in all likelihood not see a peaceful transfer of power. That much is clear. What is also clear is that when Joe Biden is sworn in as president, he will inherit this division and the dysfunctional political system that has spawned it. Gone are the days when despite differences Republicans and Democrats worked together to solve pressing problems facing the nation. When Newt Gingrich was elected speaker of the House of Representatives, he ushered in an era of hyper-partisanship that worked to stymie then President Bill Clinton s every move. When Barack Obama was elected president, then-minority Senate leader Mitch McConnell declared that he would do everything in his power to ensure that Obama was a one-term president. After McConnell became majority leader, Republicans routinely blocked Obama s appointments and refused to pass compromise legislation. At the ceremony announcing his last Supreme Court nominee, Trump noted that it is the responsibility of a president to fill vacancies in federal courts. He chided Obama for being irresponsible, noting that when he entered the Oval Office in 2017, there were over 100 court vacancies. What Trump didn t acknowledge was that the reason for these unfilled judgeships wasn t because Obama hadn t named replacements, but because McConnell wouldn t let the Senate approve them. What s clear is that unless Democrats can win the few Senate seats that remain to be contested in January 2021, Biden will confront the same obstructionism. To succeed, Biden may have to play by the rules Republicans have created. To get things done, he will be forced to issue executive orders, by-passing the Senate where it is possible to do so. This was what Obama was forced to do. He will also need to use executive orders to undo the damage to our regulatory and immigration systems by President Trump s excessive use of executive orders. At the same time, not only President Biden and Democrats, but Republicans as well, will need to deal with the reality that Trumpism will remain a potent force in American politics. When the Republican Party funded and organised the Birther Movement and the Tea Party to counter Obama s appeal, they ushered in a wave of race-based populism. This may have served the Republicans short-term goal of taking control of Congress in 2010, but the angry beast they created back then devoured them first. Across the country, fearful of alienating this base, more traditional conservative Republicans felt forced to take increasingly hardline uncompromising stances. When Donald Trump first entered the 2016 presidential contest, the Republican establishment dismissed his candidacy, certain that a more traditional Mitt Romney-style conservative Republican would win the nomination. They were wrong. And despite their initial disgust for Trump s xenophobia and bigotry, crude and vulgar language, and his shocking incitement to violence, they eventually fell in line, once again fearful of angering his supporters — the very base they had helped to create. As a result of their complicity, new and more virulent movements have taken root in this base, from the QAnon conspiracy cult to the xenophobic and racist Christian Patriot churches, and militant groups like the Proud Boys, the Boogaloo Bois, and a host of armed militias that have sprung up nationwide. All of which have received varying degrees of endorsement from the president. The fact that Donald Trump won the votes of over 70 million Americans means that while he has lost the election, his appeal will remain. Republicans will either make a concerted effort to tame this phenomenon or they will see not only the continued drift of their party toward extremism, but the danger of violence in cities across the US. This too is clear. It seems clear that, as Donald Trump said a few weeks ago, “This will not end well.” Far from being over, this election may very well continue to play out for weeks to come. Trump and the Republican Party have been telegraphing their strategy for over a month now. They will continue to challenge to validity of the vote in court. They will demand recounts. They will incite their followers to demonstrate at vote-counting facilities. In the end, many Americans will lose faith in the electoral process and America s democracy will be tarnished in the eyes of the world. That much is clear.
President Donald Trump is on his way out of the White House, but he s not done just yet. After nearly four years of relentless law-bending and norm-smashing, Trump now enters his final two-plus months in office entirely unrestrained. He won t have to face the voters again, so he can indulge his basest instincts for payback and self-preservation. Get ready for a Constitutional stress test like we ve never seen before.Here are three main areas where Trump could still wreak havoc with the law before he leaves office: Pardons. It won t be anything new for Trump to issue a rash of pardons in his final weeks in office, right up to his very last day. Prior presidents commonly have issued pardons during their final days in office, including some historically dubious ones. On his final day as president, for example, President Bill Clinton pardoned his own half-brother Roger Clinton and the fugitive billionaire financier Marc Rich (which prompted a federal criminal investigation, but ultimately no charges). Who might Trump pardon? Michael Flynn could be first in line. Flynn continues to fight in federal court (joined by William Barr s Justice Department) to have his case thrown out. Flynn s attorney reportedly briefed Trump on the case directly -- underscoring just how politically charged it has become -- and asked Trump not to issue a pardon, apparently hoping to win in the courts first. However, with Trump on his way out, Flynn may want to rethink that strategy. Should the federal judge on Flynn s case reject Flynn s effort to dismiss, it would leave him exposed to potential jail time. A Trump pardon is Flynn s only sure protection. Trump also might pardon others who were convicted by Robert Mueller s team, including Paul Manafort and George Papadopoulos. Both have already served their time, but Trump might seek to symbolically undermine Mueller s work by pardoning them.
America delivered its verdict on Donald Trump last week, and it was devastating for him. He became one of the select few incumbent Presidents to lose his bid for a second four years in office, the first since President George H.W. Bush was defeated by Bill Clinton in 1992. But Trump was not swept from office in an anti-Republican rout -- his party did exceptionally well in other races across the United States. His defeat was a clear statement that the nation, speaking through voters in states controlling a majority of electoral college votes, finally had enough of Trump himself. "Donald Trump defeated Donald Trump," wrote David Axelrod. "Trump s political demise wasn t caused by the coronavirus but by the underlying and familiar deficiencies of character and leadership of America s first reality show president." Yes, Trump s polarizing approach to politics was rewarded with record support from GOP voters, but, Axelrod added, "for the president who placed his bet on the politics of division and practiced it with a relentless ferocity, the math just didn t add up. He not only inflamed his own base but a larger coalition of Americans, determined to end his stormy, divisive rule." The winner, Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr., campaigned as the opposite of Trump, a uniter who would seek common ground with Republicans. "Character proved to be the clearest contrast with the incumbent president he dislodged with a decisive defeat," John Avlon wrote. "Now his success will be our country s success, and by leading with character he might help our nation rediscover the central importance of character, not only within the presidency, but within ourselves." By his side will be Kamala Harris: the first woman, and the first woman of color, to be vice president. Arick Wierson wrote, in a letter to his 4-year-old daughter, that "Today, millions of young girls like you across this great land will go to bed knowing that this country has a place for you, no matter where you want to go in life." He added, "That a woman of color will soon be first in line to the presidency won t mean that people won t put up obstacles in front of you based on your sex or race as you go through life. But Harris broke new ground today." A brazen attack on democracy Donald Trump has governed as no other American President has. And in defeat, he continued to break virtually every norm. With no evidence, he charged in a speech from the White House Thursday evening that the election was a fraud and that Democrats were stealing it from him. Republicans launched a volley of lawsuits that appeared to have virtually no chance of overturning the election result. "At its core, the President s speech was an attack on our democracy and the legal voting systems long established in every one of our states and territories," wrote Anne Milgram. "The President screaming that the polls and voting were fraudulent -- without any evidence of fraud -- was the political equivalent of someone falsely screaming Fire! in a crowded movie theater. The goal was to create confusion and undercut the outcome of the election." The vote counting made it clear that Trump has lost, wrote Joshua A. Douglas. "It is now time for leading Republicans, such as Sens. Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham, as well as former President George W. Bush, to speak up. They must demand that Trump cease his dangerous language that casts doubt on the legitimacy of the election and -- unless he has real evidence -- end his baseless lawsuits that seek only to further undermine people s faith in the outcome." Trump was on the golf course when CNN and other networks called the election Saturday, and there was no immediate way to tell how he reacted. But Michael D Antonio pointed out, "The one certain fact about Trump in his moment of defeat in his race against former Vice President Joe Biden is that he is not feeling good at all. Presidents are rarely denied when they pursue a second term -- it has happened four times in the last 100 years -- which means Trump cannot escape the label he hates most of all: loser. Losers are, in Trump s view, undeserving of respect, admiration, and affection." Candidates who lose presidential elections routinely concede, noted Julian Zelizer. Trump chose not to, and he vowed to continue challenging the results. "The good thing is that it doesn t ultimately matter," wrote Zelizer. "A formal concession after an election is not embedded in our Constitution -- it is a norm." Biden will become the 46th President on January 20 whether or not Trump concedes. Trump will then be an uneasy new member of the normally convivial club of former Presidents, wrote Kate Andersen Brower. In 1980, today s senior living former President, Jimmy Carter was soundly defeated by Ronald Reagan. He took it hard, Brower wrote. Ultimately, "Carter, like Gerald Ford before him and George H.W. Bush after him, accepted the humiliating loss. We suspected that Donald Trump would not be so graceful about accepting defeat. But he is turning out to be the first president who will be dragged kicking and screaming into the Presidents Club." If those county names now mean something to you, you may have spent long hours last week watching CNN s John King at the Magic Wall, zooming in and out on the geographic boundaries of America s 3,000-plus counties to make sense of the election results. It wasn t exactly the outcome most people expected, based on pre-election polls: These, on average, correctly gave Biden the edge over Trump, but they also predicted he would lead a wave of Democrats into office with him. Democrats actually lost seats in the House and thus far have failed to flip enough Senate seats to guarantee a majority. When the counting is over, Donald Trump will wind up with far more votes than any Republican presidential candidate ever, and more than he received in 2016. That is a bitter pill for his critics who had hoped for repudiation, as Frida Ghitis wrote, of his pattern of exploiting "racism and xenophobia, one of the ugliest aspects of his presidency and his campaign. But the millions who voted for Trump were not all gullible or racist." "Tens of millions of Americans have seen and heard something else from Trump that appeals to them...The issues on which he promises to fight for the people are worth noting. Ignore for a moment what he has done, and listen to what he has promised, what he said that resonated with voters -- except for the racist parts," Ghitis observed. "Democrats and many in the media assumed, wrongly, that a message of Orange Man Bad would result in a landslide," wrote Republican Doug Heye. "All they had to do was repeat anti-Trump rhetoric over and over -- and surely voters would agree. But issues matter. Talk from Democrats of packing the court, the Green New Deal, various proposals on universal health care, not to mention violence surrounding protests, likely scared people who voted for Trump in 2016, in part because they didn t like Hillary Clinton, to vote for him again in 2020." Progressives "wanted a moral victory," Van Jones wrote. "We wanted an overwhelming repudiation of horrific policies -- like separating migrant children from their parents at the border -- and hurtful rhetoric. We did not get that." Still, Jones found reasons for hope, most notably the Biden victory. "It s easier to be a parent this morning," he wrote after the race was called. "It s easier to be a dad. It s easier to tell your kids that character matters. The truth matters. Being a good person matters. Joe Biden will be our next president and Donald Trump will not." Why did the vote counting stretch for so long after Election Day? Officials in many states were overwhelmed by the flood of mailed-in ballots from voters wary of in-person voting, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Some states started the counting of these votes before Election Day, but legislators in Pennsylvania couldn t reach agreement on a bill to do so. Trump had railed against the use of mail-in ballots, and as Paul Begala noted, observers believed that "the GOP legislators were more interested in pleasing Trump than in helping their fellow citizens count the votes efficiently." Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro argued for patience as the count continued. "Voters can have confidence that if they followed the law, their vote will be counted -- and no matter who wins, that the final vote count will be legitimate. This is a commitment made in every state, in every county, in every city and town across America: in states that lean Democrat and in states that lean Republican, on the West Coast and the East Coast, from Hawaii to the heartland. That s our American tradition, and that is our law." Covid-19: now what? The day before the election, Elizabeth Yuko marked the seven-month anniversary of her long-term case of Covid-19. "As I watched the election results trickle in Tuesday night and the counting continue through the week," she wrote, "it became evident that no matter who wins, public health has suffered a major loss. The close race indicates that a substantial number of voters opted to support someone whose dangerous messaging on Covid-19 will only make the pandemic worse -- never mind making any progress in slowing its spread." With the presidential race dominating the news, many people may have missed the sharp rise in the spread of infections. On Friday, the US set an alarming record of more than 125,000 new reported infections in a single day. It came a few days after Trump accused doctors of exaggerating the number of Covid-19 cases so they could make more money. That shocked Dr. Janice Blanchard, a professor in George Washington University s emergency medicine department. "Back in March, Trump compared doctors to warriors fighting a medical war," Blanchard pointed out. "Now, just like the insults he previously hurled upon those who died on battlefields, labeling them as losers and suckers, he is disparaging those of us who risk our lives in the fight against Covid-19." On Friday, Bloomberg News reported that White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who had said, "we are not going to control the pandemic," had contracted the virus himself. Sometimes an actor wears a role so compellingly that he is forever associated with it in the public s memory: such was the case with Sean Connery, the film world s first James Bond, whose death at the age of 90 was announced on October 31. From the time he appeared in "Dr. No" in 1962, he embodied the spirit of the British secret agent with a license to kill. "Connery s do-it-all-and-do-it-often work ethic was obscured by the James Bond image, which helps explain why he was so desperate to get out from under one of the most spectacularly successful tentpoles in movie history," wrote Gene Seymour. "He was the first Bond and, to this day, the most definitive because he carried the cruel mouth and short, black hair that Ian Fleming used as physical descriptions of his British secret service agent years before the film adaptations." "After leaving the Aston Martin in the garage for Moore and others," Seymour added, "Connery s stature kept growing as did the nature of his roles, whether as a swashbuckling Moroccan insurrectionist in 1975 s The Wind and the Lion, or as a gracefully aging Robin Hood in 1976 s Robin and Marian. He could also dial down his own magnetism to great effect as in 1990 s The Russia House, an adaptation of John le Carre s novel about a semi-retired publisher reluctantly pressed into undercover duty in the Glasnost-era Soviet Union." When Seymour saw Connery s character in that film "fumbling desperately with a spy gadget," he was tempted to "cry to the screen, Oh, come on! You know how to use that! "
When this article appears, Americans will have cast their votes, whether by reporting to the polls or through mail-in ballots. Judging by the number of the latter, voter turnout is already high. It has been a long time since the get-out-to-vote appeals have been so strident. This is a natural product of a polarisation so intense that it appears to threaten US national unity. Conjuring up memories of the post-Civil War period a century and a half ago, Democratic candidate Joe Biden has said that, if he wins, he will make the return to unity the highest priority for his administration. This climate is not the making of the Donald Trump era alone. During his last year in office, president Barack Obama was aware that some of the most crucial setbacks for his administration were due to the inability to bridge the deep chasm between Democrats and Republicans in Congress, which increasingly forced him to resort to executive orders which can only be overridden by a two-thirds congressional majority. If division has deepened, the period following the announcement of the results, which could take some time given the more than 60 million mail-in ballots that will have to be counted, will reveal how much further it will deepen, especially given expectations that the results will be heatedly contested. However, what concerns us here is the impact of the US elections on the Middle East, and the Arab region in particular. As divided as the US is at present, between right and left and Republicans and Democrats, Washington s general foreign policy trends are indicative of a determination to pull out of the Middle East. This inclination had already begun to show during Obama s second term, by which time it was clear that his administration s policies towards the “Arab Spring” and in support of the “moderate” Muslim Brotherhood as the engine that would ostensibly steer the Arab and Islamic worlds to a blissful democratic paradise, had collapsed utterly. On top of its newfound disappointment in existing regimes, Washington watched as the spring breezes shifted to hot gusts of civil discord and strife aggravated by the widespread incompetence of post-revolutionary, post-jubilation political elites. The net result of the policy was a series of civil wars, massive bloodshed and destruction, and deeply divided states, all of which prepared the perfect soil for the spread of religious extremism and terrorism. Donald Trump, in his first term, said he wanted to get the US out of the “endless wars” and to shed allies who cost the US so much without giving anything in return. He felt it was safe to withdraw from the region because the interests closest to heart, such as oil and Israel, were no longer in danger. The US was self-sufficient in oil and now that it had become a major producer again, rising oil prices no longer bothered it at all. As for Israel, it was now wealthy, technologically equipped and militarily superior. Also, Trump had dedicated a good amount of his first term to girding Israel with a “deal” that would give it a better chance to make peace with its neighbours. But despite the Democrats and Republicans common desire to withdraw from the Middle East, the US is still here in the region and it is impossible to predict what the next president will do, whether he is Trump for another four years or Biden for his first four. US strategic thought on this region is in a muddle. The articles and studies on the directions, US policy towards the Middle East should take in general, or towards specific issues and countries, are sharply divergent and conflicting. The titles alone tell us this. Kenneth Pollack sees only two mutually exclusive alternatives: “Fight or Flight: America s Choice in the Middle East,” whereas Tamara Cofman Wittes and Mara Karlin frame the problem as “How to Do More With Less in the Middle East: American Policy in the Wake of the Pandemic.” Martin Indyk strikes a contrast with a pessimistic take: “Disaster in the Desert: Why Trump s Middle East Plan Can t Work”, while Steven Cook chips in with a fatalistic sounding “No Exit: Why the Middle East Still Matters to America.” Such outlooks reflect a considerable degree of bewilderment and dismay at being caught in this dilemma of withdrawal versus involvement. It is a dilemma that largely functions in ideological frameworks that are generally aloof to strategic substance such as regional or ideological balances or other more concrete factors weighed by military analysts who see the region more in terms of maritime outlets or of the size and locations of the spheres of influence of rival world powers such as China, Russia or even Europe. Of course, there are other perspectives on this region such as that which believes that the US has an inescapable role to play here after terrorists from this part of the world reached the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon in Washington. The Covid-19 pandemic may be the first global disaster in decades not to have triggered an accusing finger directed at the Middle East. On this occasion, fingers turned to China and Asia which, ironically, were once the horizons towards which Obama and then Trump thought the US should set its sails. Yet, perhaps, the main problem of the Middle East is not how baffled the US gets when it looks at it, but how this region perceives itself. For some time, the mirror was shaped by the long-lasting Arab-Israeli conflict. At other times, an Arab nationalist lens determined what was and was not authentic in it. There were also times, occasioned by both calls to revolution and calls to moderation, when little distinction was made between this region and the Islamic world. Today, a new phenomenon is in progress, one that might dispel Washington s confusion and give regional authenticity a fresh boost. It is the crystallisation of the nation state in the sense of a geopolitical entity with borders, a distinct identity that sets it apart from other states, and particular interests and concerns that make friends and enemies easier to identify than ever before. In this framework, “regional security” is contingent on the security of its component states, which entails neutralising existing or potentially hostile acts or threats against them. This can be achieved through the implementation of policies that aim to strengthen the autonomous power of the state and through regional alliances that work to safeguard the state and deter threats. The consolidation of the nation state that we see in progress in this region helps explain the intense and diverse activity in deals between countries of this region not just with the US, but also with China, Russia and Europe, with each country acting in accordance with its perception of its interests whether in the acquisition of arms or in trade deals, setting oil prices or welcoming tourists.
There is a reason CNN has been warning to expect "Election Week" rather than "Election Night." America is living it right now. And that s why we all need to stay calm and count every vote. The sun rose after Election Day on a country still deeply divided -- with President Donald Trump outperforming polls and securing Florida s prized 29 electoral votes early in the night. But the fundamental facts of the 2020 campaign remain in place. This is a Coronavirus Election -- and that means states are still processing an unprecedented number of mail-in ballots. The 2020 presidential race is far from over. Either Biden or Trump could still win -- though Democrats have reason to believe that the outstanding mail-in ballots in major population centers would disproportionately favor their candidate. Republicans have reason to feel confident because they upended the polls and expectations, making inroads to the Hispanic population in particular -- and they appear to have stopped momentum for a Democratic Senate pick-up spree, despite some Democratic gains. But all of this is hypothetical until all the ballots cast are counted. Joe Biden is leading in the popular vote, as expected, and as of 8:30 a.m. on November 4 there are nine states which have not been called because they are still counting votes -- From Alaska to Nevada and Arizona in the West to Wisconsin and Michigan in the Upper Midwest, to East Coast states from Georgia to North Carolina to Pennsylvania and Maine. Not all these states will break one way, but in many of them, the bulk of the outstanding votes are mail-in ballots from major population centers -- big cities, small metros and suburbs -- where Democrats are expected to have an edge. In general, the mail-in votes cast have shown a decided tilt toward Democrats. This is not unexpected, as CNN s Marshall Cohen explained in a pre-election article, titled "How to spot a blue or red mirage in early election results." It may prove to be a variation on the theme we ve seen in recent years, known as the "Blue Shift," when absentee ballots break toward the Democrats, as we saw in the 2018 midterms (a phenomenon that CNN s Harry Enten chronicled almost a month after the polls closed in that election). The morning after the midterms, early results showed Democrats picking up 26 congressional seats. When all the votes were counted, they gained 40 seats. But Democrats aren t guaranteed a win in situations like this. In 2018, two Florida statewide races were too close to call -- prompting Trump to tweet: "An honest vote count is no longer possible-ballots massively infected. Must go with Election Night!" Republicans won those seats when all the outstanding ballots were counted. Now, President Trump is reverting to his autocratic instincts, falsely declaring, "Frankly, we did win this election" and stating that he wanted to go to the Supreme Court with his insistence that "we want all voting to stop." Don t get numb to how dangerous, dictatorial and fundamentally unlawful Trump s demand is. Even Trump ally Chris Christie condemned the comments, saying, "There s just no basis to make that argument tonight. There just isn t. All these votes have to be counted that are in now." Thankfully, we are still a nation of laws, though Team Trump will, as they have indicated for weeks, challenge the outstanding ballots in court and claim that the full counting of votes is evidence of Democrats trying to "manipulate the results" and "steal the election" -- as they already did in a post-election tweet. That is the opposite of true -- any attempt to stop the full and fair counting of ballots would be more credibly characterized as an attempt to "steal" the election. Counting all the ballots is not fraud. Outstanding questions remain about why the US Postal Service, run by a Trump mega-donor, defied a court order to account for 300,000 missing ballots, amid accusations of a slowdown in delivery. That s why we are still in the middle of election week in an instant gratification society that is unaccustomed to waiting for the process to work. The heightened emotions are understandable -- there is a lot at stake -- and many Democrats were expecting a battleground state blowout that decidedly did not materialize. We may have the third presidential election this century where the winner of the popular vote does not win the electoral college, benefiting the Republican, which would be lawful but deeply destabilizing. We may see a decisive though narrower than expected Democratic win in both the popular and electoral vote. Regardless, the world is watching. The strength of our democracy hangs in the balance. And the rule of law demands that we count every eligible vote cast.
My Jewish husband grew up in 1970s Germany. When asked to give up his seat on public transit for senior citizens, he would often hesitate, wondering whether those individuals played passive or active roles during the Third Reich. While perhaps unfair, younger generations judged Germans who lived through the Nazi era as though they were complicit and could have changed the course of history. Similarly, we will all be judged by what we do -- or do not do -- at this moment in American history. This is not in any way to compare the atrocities of the Holocaust with what we are seeing in the US today, but there are similarities to this moment and the rise of Nazism in the 1930s. Today, we stand at a precipice, yet unlike Germans in the lead-up to World War II, we have the chance to vote a rising authoritarian out of power.For four years, President Donald Trump has increasingly threatened our country and our future. He has assaulted, undermined, and weakened our democracy, using hatred and disinformation to divide Americans, sow confusion, and incite domestic unrest. He has repeatedly aligned himself with America s adversaries and alienated our allies. Amid an unprecedented public health crisis, he has demonstrated a wanton disregard for human life, intentionally misled us, and denied science as Americans die in record numbers. He s explicitly threatened Americans exercising their First Amendment rights, including his political opponents and the media, issued statements widely viewed as calls to arms and incitement to violence. Trump has a clear record of fanning the flames of hatred, including equating neo-Nazis with peaceful protestors in Charlottesville, using racist epithets, repeating anti-Semitic tropes, and fueling xenophobic conspiracy theories, which I have argued contributed to the worst anti-Semitic attack in American history. At the first 2020 presidential debate, Trump had a chance to demonstrate to the American people where he stood on the issue of racially motivated violent extremism, which his own FBI director recently warned is one of the greatest threats facing Americans.Instead of denouncing this virulent form of hatred, Trump pointedly refused and instead encouraged a far-right extremist group to "stand back and stand by." He later tried to walk back his remarks, after they were celebrated by the far-right. Less than three weeks later, Trump repeated the same offense at a presidential townhall when he legitimized a QAnon conspiracy theory, and refused to denounce this dangerous movement that has infiltrated the Republican Party. The threat posed by Trump to our democracy has become even clearer in the lead-up to the election. In July, he suggested the illegal postponement of the election. Despite constitutional term limits, Trump has asserted he s entitled to more than two terms as president. He s refused to commit to the peaceful transfer of power if he s defeated, and questioned the validity, without proof, of mail-in ballots, which he himself previously used to vote. He has baselessly repeated claims of voter fraud, as the Justice Department has loosened its 40-year policy on launching an investigation on voter fraud during an election cycle, and indicated he expects the Supreme Court to rule in his favor if the election is litigated. All of this comes at the end of a presidential term that was rife with illegality, impropriety, and his impeachment by the House.Now, on the eve of the election, reports indicate that Trump plans to prematurely claim victory if it looks like he is close to 270 electoral votes on election night. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and Trump have denied that the claims are true, but Trump and his team have signaled their plans to litigate the counting of mail-in ballots after Election Day. But if the President is indeed planning on do this, it would improperly disregard postmarked mail-in ballots in states like Pennsylvania. According to the Pennsylvania secretary of state, there may be as many as 10 times the number of mail-in ballots in 2020 than there were in 2016 in this critical swing state, which can legally accept mail-in ballots postmarked by Election Day until November 6. The dubious legal groundwork for this position was recently laid by Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who served on the Republican legal team that stopped the presidential election recount 20 years ago. Though some of us have become numb to the daily outrages, we cannot forget this simple fact: Trump s behavior is that of an authoritarian. What may feel like a tumultuous and frenetic daily news cycle is the clear erosion of our democracy during Trump s presidency.As this monumental election comes to a close, it s important to remember what s at stake and how future generations will view the choice facing Americans at this critical crossroads. Will we choose the path of authoritarianism and hatred with Trump, or will we choose decency and democracy with Joe Biden? While we cannot know the outcome at this point, we do know that history will judge those who abandon their values and allow rise of bigotry and hate. Your children and grandchildren will someday ask whether you stood up for your values or whether you were a passive bystander, and a vote for Biden must be part of your answer. It s the only decent choice.
By continuing to break democratic norms on judicial nominations, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has harmed the administration of the 2020 election.McConnell has boasted proudly that he has filled every federal appellate judicial vacancy in the country. After refusing to consider numerous Obama nominees, McConnell and President Donald Trump have acted with zeal to nominate and confirm dozens of federal judges that McConnell brazenly left open during the Obama presidency. Content by Mastercard Helping Women Entrepreneurs of Color Survive and Thrive in the Digital Economy The Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth s partnership with the non-profit Grameen America has helped women-owned small businesses survive — and now thrive — in Harlem. A Pew analysis of data from the Federal Judicial Center found that Trump has appointed more federal appeals judges, 53, than any president since Jimmy Carter as of July 7. Trump also appointed three justices to the US Supreme Court. A significant number of those judges are issuing restrictive rulings that have impacted how some states run the election, harming voters in the process. In at least 18 cases this year, federal trial courts ruled in favor of plaintiffs and put on hold various election rules, often due to the challenges of voting during the pandemic, only to see federal appeals courts reverse those pro-voter rulings. Twelve of those decisions included at least one Trump-appointed judge. Seven of those 12 cases were 2-1 decisions with a Trump appointee in the majority; an eighth case was a 6-4 decision by the entire Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, with five Trump-appointed judges in the majority.These cases obviously had merit given that lower courts had issued pro-voter opinions. But the appeals courts reversed -- with Trump appointees often casting one of the deciding votes. Instead of protecting the right to vote, federal appeals courts have refused to invalidate laws that force voters to jump through numerous hoops to cast their ballots. The goal of these restrictive laws seems to be to try to depress turnout among some voters and make it easier for Republicans to win re-election. Trump even admitted this idea earlier this year, saying that if it was easy to vote, "you d never have a Republican elected in this country again." To be sure, a few Trump-appointed judges have ruled in favor of voting rights plaintiffs on occasion. But the trend shows that those wishing to make voting easier have more often been unsuccessful. These decisions have involved witness signatures for absentee ballots, ballot delivery mechanisms, deadlines for returning absentee ballots and paying for voter transportation to the polls, among other things. In short, the lawsuits sought to make it easier to cast a ballot, particularly given the unique circumstances of holding an election during a pandemic. And although numerous federal district courts have agreed with plaintiffs to vindicate the constitutional right to vote, the appeals courts, increasingly filled with conservative judges, instead have unduly deferred to states on how to run the election.Of course, Trump-appointed judges are not driving all decisions. A few Clinton- or Obama-appointed judges have ruled against plaintiffs in certain cases. But in the aggregate, the ideological trends are clear. These rulings are piling one on top of another, with some courts looking at what other courts are doing to reject the plaintiffs claims, thereby creating a snowball effect for this narrow view of the right to vote. For instance, the Eighth Circuit, over a vigorous dissent, relied on restrictive rulings from the Seventh and Eleventh Circuits to reject a challenge to a new Missouri law that forbids some voters from dropping off their ballots in person, requiring them to use the mail. Even where plaintiffs have found rare success from the federal circuit courts of appeals, the Supreme Court has sometimes reversed. For example, the full Fourth Circuit voted 9-5 to suspend South Carolina s witness requirement for absentee ballots (with two Trump appointees both in dissent), but the Supreme Court reversed. Similarly, the Eleventh Circuit had ruled, 2-1, (with Trump appointee Judge Barbara Lagoa in dissent), to let Alabama counties have curbside voting even though Alabama s Secretary of State sought to ban the practice, but the Supreme Court again reversed. Trump s Supreme Court appointees, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, agreed with the rulings both times.The Supreme Court last week refused to put on hold decisions from Pennsylvania and North Carolina that extended the absentee ballot deadlines, which initially seem like wins for voters who, as of now, can have their ballots arrive a few days after Nov. 3 in these states. But separate opinions from Justices Samuel Alito and Gorsuch, along with signals from Justices Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas in other cases, suggest that the Court might not rule favorably on voting rights in the future. New Justice Amy Coney Barrett did not participate in these cases. Alongside these restrictive rulings, voting rights advocates have seen some success, both in state courts and when defending states that have eased voting rules due to the pandemic. And some cases haven t been appealed. But voting rights plaintiffs have generally not done as well, especially on appeal, when challenging states that refused to alter their rules to make it easier to vote. Restrictive jurisprudence from Trump-appointed judges is one key reason. These cases, which fail to protect the constitutional right to vote, have a direct lineage from McConnell s strategy to block Obama nominees and then confirm Trump nominees. McConnell has skewed the federal courts to a conservative viewpoint that fails to protect voters. And McConnell is not done, saying that he plans to "clean the plate" of every remaining judicial nominee after the election, even if Republicans lose the Senate.The solution? Turn out to vote anyway, even if you have to jump through unnecessary hoops to do so. Use the reality of voter suppression to create a backlash against this undemocratic tactic. Protest McConnell s demolition of norm after norm. Ultimately, we must demand fidelity to a universal truth: In a democracy that values the fundamental right to vote, the voters themselves, not election rules or restrictive judicial rulings, must dictate the outcome.
When they go to the polls to cast their ballot for President of the United States, 59% of Arab Americans say they will vote for Democratic candidate Joseph Biden with only 35% supporting the reelection of President Trump. This is one of the findings of a nationwide poll of 805 Arab American voters conducted by the Arab American Institute during the second week of October 2020. Overall, Joseph Biden is viewed favorably by 74% of Arab American voters and unfavorably by only 25%, while President Trump’s favorable/unfavorable ratio is a lukewarm 48% to 51%. Even a majority (55%) of Arab American Republicans have a favorable view of Biden. One of the few positive signs for Donald Trump is the fact that he has galvanized support among Arab American Republicans and brought home some of those who, during the first two decades of this century, had stopped self-identifying with the GOP. The 40% Democrat/33% Republican split among Arab American voters represents a narrowing of the gap between the two parties. The partisan divide of 40% to 38% in 2000 had grown each election cycle since then. By 2016, it had become 52% to 26%. Today’s party identification numbers are similar to 2002 and 2004 when it was 39% to 31%. As a result, while Biden holds a significant lead over Trump in this year’s poll, the margin is somewhat less than the gap that separated Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Back in 2016, Clintons margin over Trump was 58% to 25%, with a significant number of Arab American Republicans not voting. In this 2020 poll, the Democratic candidate Joseph Biden wins among almost all demographic groups, but by a somewhat smaller margin than former President Barack Obama in 2008. Biden leads among Catholics (55% to 43%), Muslims (60% to 30%), and naturalized citizens (64% to 23%). Where Biden’s margins are largest are among younger Arab American voters (67% to 27%) and senior citizens (66% to 26%). When provided a list of 14 policy concerns and asked to identify the issues they feel are most important in determining their votes in this election, 40% of Arab Americans said their number one concern was “deteriorating race relations in the US today.” This was followed by jobs and the economy (23%), health care (21%), the environment and climate change (17%), and Social Security and Medicare (10%). On all of these issues, except for “jobs and the economy,” Biden was favored over Trump by a significant margin. The issue of deteriorating race relations looms large for Arab American voters with 70% saying they have a positive view of the nationwide demonstrations supporting Black lives and 74% holding critical views of policing practices in the US. Resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the only foreign policy issue mentioned in the above list of overall concerns and was listed as a top priority by only 5% of Arab American voters. But when it comes to identifying their major issues of concern in the Middle East, 45% of Arab Americans said that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was one of their top concerns. This was followed by “meeting the humanitarian concerns of the Syrian people” and “addressing the ongoing political and economic crises in Lebanon.” By a margin of two to one President Trump was seen as having been more ineffective than effective in handling of each of these critical concerns. And by margin of 49% to 33%, Arab American voters said they believe that Biden would be better than the sitting president at improving US relations with the Arab world. Turnout will be very high in this election with slightly more than 80% of Arab Americans saying they are very likely to vote. Most Democrats say they are either voting early in person or by mail (52%), while most Republicans are waiting until election day to cast their votes (62%). Interestingly, more Trump voters (75%) are concerned that their ballots might not be counted than Biden voters (63%). The Arab American vote will be most critical in the key battleground states of Michigan (where they can be as much as 5% of the vote), and Ohio and Pennsylvania (where they are between 1.7 to 2% of likely voters).
On Friday, 23 October, the Libyan Joint Military Commission, known as 5+5, reached a promising agreement on a permanent ceasefire in Libya after five days of talks in Geneva. The Geneva Agreement built on a previous meeting of the commission in Hurghada, Egypt. The successful talks capped international and regional efforts throughout the last two months after the ceasefire the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli and the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar agreed on in early August. The international community and the United Nations had exerted diplomatic pressure to make this ceasefire permanent. The agreement announced Friday still needs the final approval of the GNA in Tripoli and that of the Libyan House of Representatives chaired by Aguila Saleh. The Secretary General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres, said that the Security Council would discuss the Geneva Agreement shortly and added that it is based on Security Council Resolutions 2510 and 2542 on the situation in Libya. Moreover, he promised to set up in the very near future a United Nations “monitoring mechanism” that would be approved by the Security Council. In this respect, the 5+5 Commission requested that the agreement be adopted in a resolution by the Security Council. The UN secretary general called on the international community to support the Libyans in carrying out the agreement, and in particular to respect the UN-mandated arms embargo on Libya. The agreement stressed that the ceasefire does not apply to groups designated as terrorist groups by the United Nations, namely Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group. Meanwhile, the commission agreed that all “mercenaries” should leave Libyan territories within three months effective the day the agreement entered into force. Furthermore, it also stipulated the freezing of all agreements pertaining to military training by foreign powers on Libyan soil. According to the agreement, a tallying of all militias in Libya would take place so its armed men would become members in the future Libyan army. In the same vein, the two sides agreed to set up a joint military force, limited in numbers, to deal with any violations of the ceasefire. In the meantime, the agreement included guiding principles for a new Libya, such as respect for human rights as well as international humanitarian law. It also stated that fighting terrorism is considered a national policy to be implemented by the future Libyan government. The Geneva Agreement won worldwide support that augurs well for the future. The Egyptian government endorsed it, stressing in a Foreign Ministry statement that “this success” comes in the wake of the results of the Hurghada meeting in September. The ceasefire agreement is a promising and serious step forward and comes after two successful meetings in Morocco between the Tripoli State Council and the House of Representatives in the last few weeks, and two weeks before the convening in Tunisia of a Forum for Political Dialogue that would include the GNA and the House of Representatives. From an Egyptian point of view, the agreement has dealt positively with its major national security concerns as far as the Libyan situation is concerned, be it fighting terrorism, or sending home “mercenaries” and the disbanding of armed militias. On 19 January, Germany had hosted the Berlin Summit on Libya with its security-military, financial-economic and political tracks. The Geneva Agreement of 23 October could prove a “historic achievement”, as the UN Mission in Libya characterised it. If everything goes as planned, drawing on the Berlin Summit Declaration and Security Council Resolution 2510, Libya should have a constitution and an elected government before the end of 2021. One can only hope.
The 2020 presidential election is one of the most crucial in American history. Political pundits have taken to discussing past presidential elections, especially those that have been politically controversial and close, searching for a historical precedent.The so-called Revolution of 1800 put Jeffersonian Republicans in charge and drove the Federalist Party to extinction. In the presidential election of 1820, supporters of Andrew Jackson, who won the popular vote, claimed that John Quincy Adams became President through what many of them called a "corrupt bargain" with Henry Clay, when Clay got his electors to support Adams. The contested elections of 1876 marked the formal end of Reconstruction in the former Confederacy because of yet another shady deal that put a Republican in the White House but gave southern Whites free rein to install a brutal regime of racial subordination and terror. None of these elections however bear the same weight as the presidential election of 1860, which decided the fate of the American republic. And in 2020, the stakes seem almost as high. Historical analogies rarely work in simple parallel ways. 2020 is not 1860 even though we may find some resonance of our current condition in the past. There is no active secession movement ready to take states out of the Union in case Joe Biden is elected to the presidency. While some may threaten or incite violence, we can ill imagine a long drawn out Civil War over the results of the presidential elections. The real fear among many Americans today is the possibility of widespread electoral fraud and interference, something that never entered the political equation in 1860.The one underlying commonality that binds these two historic presidential elections is the conviction that it is American democracy -- rather than just opposing presidential candidates -- that is on the ballot. The election of 1860 that elevated Abraham Lincoln to the presidency was no ordinary election. For the first time, a President was elected on an antislavery platform, though not one that called for complete abolition. It also marked the last time in American history that a new political party, founded in 1854, was successful in winning the presidency. Slaveholders and their political allies had dominated the federal government since the founding of the republic in large part due to the three fifths clause of the US Constitution that allowed southern states to count three fifths of their slave population for purposes of representation in Congress. Most American presidents had been slaveholders or northern "doughfaces," northern men with southern principles. By the mid-19th century, however, slaveholders were starting to lose their grip on Congress, as northern population increased along with the prospective entry of free states into the Union. In 1860, four men ran for the presidency, the Republican Abraham Lincoln on the non-extension of slavery, the northern Democrat Stephen Douglas on the right of White men to vote slavery up or down, the southern Democrat John Breckinridge on a proslavery, anti-democratic platform, and John Bell of the Constitutional Union party that simply promised fealty to the American Union and Constitution. American citizens had the choice of voting for the status quo by picking Douglas or Bell, to make the American republic a slaveholding republic in perpetuity even if it entailed violating democratic principles by choosing Breckinridge, or of voting for Lincoln and putting slavery into a course of what he called "ultimate extinction."The Democrats tried to discredit Lincoln and the Republican Party by using scare tactics and race baiting, an art they had perfected in the years before the Civil War. They called the Republicans "Black Republicans" and Southern newspapers contended that Lincoln s vice presidential candidate, Hannibal Hamlin, who was swarthy, was actually a "mulatto" or of mixed race. Recently Donald Trump has doubled down on racist appeals to galvanize his supporters and stooped -- in a troubling echo of the past -- to calling Senator Kamala Harris a "monster," evoking stereotypes of Black women. In 1860, Southern Democrats like proslavery ideologue George Fitzhugh even argued that the Republican Party was a front for socialism and feminism, all the dread "isms" along with abolitionism. Similarly, current Republicans claim that radical socialists hold Vice President Joe Biden hostage. Upon Lincoln s election, plots to kidnap him abounded, much like the conspiracy by right-wing domestic terrorists to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan. The threat of violent reprisal hung heavy over the 1860 elections as it does today. A younger generation of enthusiastic young men organized "Wide Awakes," street demonstrations in support of Lincoln and the Republican Party, much like the so-called "woke" generation of Americans who have flooded the streets demanding racial justice in the Movement for Black Lives.In 1860, Lincoln received the greatest number of votes, an overwhelming majority in the north with every county in New England voting for him, though he was not even on the ballot in most slave states. This translated into a decisive victory in the Electoral College. Rather than accept the results of a democratic election, most of the slave south seceded from the Union and took up arms against the American republic. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell recently remarked on the history of presidential elections, "There will be an orderly transition just as there has been every four years since 1792." He must have missed the presidential elections of 1860, the subsequent secession of eleven southern states, and the start of the Civil War. The 2020 presidential election is certainly as consequential as that of 1860. It is, as Biden is fond of saying, a battle for the "soul of America." The fate of the American republic once again hangs in the balance. Like the slaveholders of the 1850s, Trump, his followers and enablers are in a position to pose an existential threat to American democracy. Like many slaveholders, Trump refuses to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses. Four words can save America: Donald Trump, you're fired Four words can save America: Donald Trump, you re fired If history appears first as tragedy, then as farce, the counterparts of southern secessionists and proslavery theorists today are QAnon conspiracy theorists, neo Confederates, and the right-wing Boogaloo boys. Much of the contemporary Republican Party that refuses to repudiate Trump is like those southern Whites who may not have had a direct stake in slavery but went with their states, who ultimately chose slavery before the republic. The choice -- as the Republicans of the Lincoln Project, who have broken with their party, put it -- is between America and Trump. Given America s expanded role and importance in the world since the mid-19th century, one could argue that the impact of the present American presidential elections could be even greater than it was in 1860. Lincoln s election and emancipation did have international significance, fortifying forces of democracy in Europe, abolition in Brazil and Cuba, and anti-casteism in faraway India.Trump s foreign policy of cozying up to dictators all over the world and rejecting democratic allies while embracing Russia s autocrat, Vladimir Putin, is a singular repudiation of American democratic ideals. Trumpism has given oxygen to far-right groups including neo Nazis in Europe and authoritarianism all over the world. If he loses, Trump s defeat will surely signal the renewal of democracy at home and abroad. The American republic is at a crossroads today just as it was in 1860 and the future of "the last best hope of earth," as Lincoln said it, lies in the hands of American voters.
Like a UNC Tar Heels-Duke Blue Devils basketball matchup, North Carolina was always going to come down to the wire. After North Carolina went blue in the 2008 election and red in the 2012 election, each by narrow margins, Trump carried the state in 2016 with a super slim majority of 50.5% of the vote.Already, this year, more than 3 million North Carolinians have voted -- about 67% of 2016 s total turnout -- and if the state polls are any indication, we could expect another tightly won race. As a North Carolinian who has worked three Republican Senate races in my home state, Republican fervor for President Donald Trump still leaves me scratching my head. Trump is not a traditional conservative. He is largely non-confrontational with Russia, for instance. This is particularly striking given that anti-communist rhetoric was an important part of former President Ronald Reagan s closing message in his 1976 North Carolina primary win, keeping Reagan s political hopes alive for 1980 and of Republican Sen. Jesse Helms entire career. And he isn t offering solutions to some of the big issues his party must address -- including health care. In fact, after four years as president, he has not been able to offer any real specifics on health care, much less pass a law to prevent a government takeover of health care and provide greater patient choice, control and affordability -- health care principles conservatives should rally behind. Despite all of this, Trump maintains solid support among the Republican base -- a stark contrast to then-nominee Trump s 2016 experience. Visiting the state a few times before that election, I saw few materials and no enthusiasm for Trump at my hometown GOP headquarters in Winston-Salem. At two political rallies for down ballot races, candidate speeches in the days after the Access Hollywood tape did their best to avoid mention of Trump altogether. And yet, four years later, Trump is in a dead heat with Biden -- and North Carolinian Republicans seem eager to get him reelected. Three factors could determine if GOP enthusiasm is enough to help Trump win my home state a second time around. 1. The state s population is growing. North Carolina has outpaced growth in the rest of country over the past 30 years, going from 6.7 million to 10.4 million residents. Much of that growth has been in the suburban areas outside of Charlotte, like Matthews, whose population has doubled since 1990, and Raleigh suburb Cary, which some joke stands for "Containment Area of Relocated Yankees" and whose population has quadrupled in that same time.Places with rapidly growing populations are trending more and more Democratic, while rural areas are trending more Republican. It s a trend we re seeing nationwide -- and has become more and more pronounced in North Carolina over the last generation. These changes influence where candidates campaign -- or where campaigning may be most effective. And, by and large, the campaigns are going to different places. North Carolina campaigns used to almost exclusively battle over the eastern part of the state -- in mid-sized and small towns east of Interstate 95, where tobacco farming reigned supreme. For decades, Republican hopes were pinned to winning over enough of the eastern "Jesse-crats" -- conservative Democrats who would hand Republicans, like Helms, victories. The east is still important, which is why in recent days Trump visited Greenville and Vice President Mike Pence visited Selma. And when the Trump campaign is not in the east, it s focusing its effort on other rural communities, where it has traditionally succeeded in running up high margins, or GOP strongholds. The Biden campaign has a different plan. Stopping in cities or nearby suburbs, Biden is pinning hopes on those new to the state, while also engaging African-Americans, including the state s Historically Black Colleges and Universities, which were turnout machines for former President Barack Obama, but did not have the same enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton. Expect an Obama appearance in the state to help push Biden over the finish line. 2. Whither the undecided voter? An ABC/Washington Post poll earlier this week shows not only Biden leading the race by a mere point, but also that only 3% of voters appear undecided.This makes voter identification and turnout all the more critical for both campaigns, as there just aren t that many undecided, or pursuable, voters out there. For Trump, his campaign is much better funded and staffed than in 2016, when county party chairs often did not hear from a short-staffed, disorganized campaign. Given Trump s 3.7-point margin last time, having a better funded, more robust team should, in theory, give Trump a significant advantage. But this is no normal political environment -- with a raging pandemic and the increasing economic uncertainty it has brought. And Biden has a key difference with Hillary Clinton. Namely, that he is not her. 3. Pro-Trump vs. Anti-Clinton In 2016, Clinton put together an impressive team in the state, devoting more people and resources than the Trump campaign even tried to do. It should have put her over the top, but voters just did not like her. That unpopularity had a long and deep history -- the all-Southern Bill Clinton/Al Gore ticket never carried the state, and Hillary Clinton was a GOP target throughout the 1990s. National and local headlines were brutal. "A record number of voters now dislike Hillary Clinton," an August 2016 Washington Post article read. One month earlier, Slate profiled individual voters who loathed Clinton, including a Raleigh voter, in a piece headlined, "The Hillary Haters." Joe Biden does not have that baggage. A June 2016 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll showed Clinton s favorability 22 points underwater, with 33% positive and a massive 55% negative. Four years later, the June 2020 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found Biden with only a 38% negative rating. And given the lightning road that Clinton had been for years, it s reasonable to conclude the disdain for Clinton was not just larger, but more intense. A good example of this? My father, who was a registered independent in North Carolina. The last time I visited my father before he passed away was just before the 2016 election. In our conversation, he told me he voted for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the primary (North Carolina independents may vote in either party s primary) and then Trump in the general election. Why? So, he could vote against Clinton twice."But I sure wish Joe Biden were running," he said. North Carolina became a true battleground when Obama s campaign caught everyone, including a lethargic North Carolina Republican Party, by surprise. Many dismissed it as fluke sure to go Republicans in 2012. It did, but just by over 2 points. Trump s 3.7-point win was no landslide. As a wounded incumbent who carried the state as much because of who he wasn t -- Clinton -- than who he was, Trump faces perhaps his toughest challenge in the Tar Heel state now. The result may come down to who makes the buzzer-beater shot to win.
There was little more than a week to go. Polls showed him losing to a man he called "the worst candidate in the history of politics." But the President had one last chance to reach a vast number of Americans with his message. What did he do with this great opportunity? He entered whining -- and left in a huff. In the traditional end-of-campaign interview with "60 Minutes," Donald Trump showed that his comfort zone is still his bad boy stage persona. He insulted Lesley Stahl, a mild-mannered interrogator if there ever was one, by trying to cast her as a villain. He accused her and her program of being mean to him and favoring his opponent. "You re so negative, you re so negative," Trump groused at one point. At another, he complained, "You re really quite impossible to convince," as if he was there to make a sale instead of discussing the pandemic, the economy and his other responsibilities. Then, after 37 minutes of this, he abruptly declared "that s enough" and left. As drama, Trump s schtick was stale to the point of pathetic. Echoing the days after his inauguration, he offered nonsense about the size of his rally crowds. He aired rabbit-hole theories about his opponent, Joe Biden. He even tried to revive a supposed scandal involving Hillary Clinton, as if summoning her name would energize his supporters. Energizing the most rabid element of his base seemed to be Trump s only purpose and to do that he sought to pose as a warrior. "You have to fight back," he said. "And if you don t fight back, you re not sitting here very long. You go back home. You go back home to mommy." With this he sounded more like an angry boy in the schoolyard than like someone we should trust with very adult problems. The adult on the program turned out to be Biden, who was interviewed by Norah O Donnell during the same show. Despite what Trump claimed, she did not toss Biden "softball after softball." In fact, she pressed him on his age, 78, and whether he was up to the job. She asked about the controversial question of adding more justices to the Supreme Court and how Biden would manage taxes and spending as he dealt with the economic effects of the pandemic. In each response, Biden did sound quite like the conventional politicians whom many assume to represent a sclerotic system. But he did actually answer the questions. Asked about unfounded suggestions that he has dementia, Biden said: "Look at me. Compare our physical and mental acuity. I m happy to have that comparison." He explained his plan to raise taxes on high earners, and on expanding the Supreme Court, he promised no precipitous action but rather a commission to study the matter. The commission idea might be a classic political dodge, but there is something reassuring about this go-slow approach to a controversy. Biden was clearly trying to turn down the heat, and after four years of red-hot rhetoric from Trump, this approach seemed less hackneyed than mature. In the end, the difference between the Biden and Trump interviews was not the quality of the questions but the tenor of the replies. Trump established a tone of conflict, refusing to truly dialogue. And in his usual fashion he produced a string of misleading statements and out-and-out falsehoods, according to fact checkers. Biden may have dodged at times and CBS fact-checked claims that were somewhat askew. However, Biden generally engaged in the conversation, as if he respected the role of journalists who ask questions that could help voters make their choices. "I think the contrast between Donald Trump and me is about as stark as it can get in terms of our value set and how we view the world," Biden said. As if to prove his point, Trump s press secretary Kayleigh McEnany came into the room after Trump s interview to hand Stahl a giant, bound book. She said it was Trump s long-awaited health care plan. It was, as Stahl told viewers, nothing of the sort. It was just a pile of papers -- executive orders, legislative initiatives -- not a plan at all. Like the crowd-size discussion, the bogus book echoed past Trump performances when he has presented stacks of blank papers and empty files that supposedly indicate he has the facts and evidence to back up his claims. This is stagecraft, not statecraft, and at this point the method only calls attention to the president s shortcomings. The blessing in Trump s "60 Minutes" performance is that it did help make the voters choice clear. Both men are, in a sense, offering more of the same. Trump assures more drama. Biden promises a return to the steady and familiar. One extremely well-informed observer apparently thinks that Biden s message is working. In remarks on Russian state TV Sunday about Trump s attacks on Biden and his family, Vladimir Putin appeared to come down on the former vice president s side. It was perhaps an olive branch offering that indicates that he thinks the Trump Show has entered its final act and the curtain is about to come down.
What is haunting the campaign of 2020? The ghost of 2016, when Donald Trump overcame dismal mid-October polls and eked out a surprise Electoral College victory over Hillary Clinton to become president. Trump s supporters are hoping it will happen again, that the polls aren t registering the full degree of his support among voters. At the same time, many of Joe Biden s backers are nervously eying his lead in key swing state polls, worried it won t endure for the next nine days. But it s not 2016 anymore. So much has changed in four years: Trump is no longer the new disrupter, he s a president trailing multiple incendiary controversies as he seeks four more years. And Biden isn t Hillary Clinton: He carries far lower negatives and higher support in the Rust Belt states that put Trump in the White House -- whether that s enough to win him the White House remains to be seen. The biggest difference? They re running in an America surging with Covid-19, where more than 224,000 people have died and millions have lost their jobs. The pandemic cast a huge shadow over Thursday s presidential debate. "Trump did not lay out any kind of real plan to mitigate the worst public health crisis in the United States in a century," wrote Peter Bergen. "If he had done so, he might have won over some undecided voters, but he seems incapable." Nayerra Haq observed, "In the face of the crisis facing American families right now, Trump didn t offer a plan or even words of comfort." I m immune Three weeks ago, Trump announced he had contracted the disease. At Thursday s debate, he said, "I got better very fast or I wouldn t be here tonight. And now they say I m immune." His words dismayed Roxanne Jones: "As someone who has lost loved ones to the virus, the President s words felt disrespectful. Imagine how many of those 220,000 lives may have been saved if those Americans had Trump-care: completely free, top quality medical care, helicopter ambulances to the hospital, the best team of medical doctors around the clock, and a private wing at the hospital." Lanhee Chen recalled that "Trump closed well in 2016" and his debate performance Thursday was "much more disciplined and on-message than he has been at any point in the last few weeks." He added, "Trump managed to embrace the mantle of the disrupter again, even though he s the incumbent president. His indictment of Biden as a politician who s been in office for 47 years but accomplished little during that time continued to be his most effective sustained line of attack." But will that be enough to reverse the President s fortunes? "Trump did his best, and it was not good enough," Van Jones wrote. "It was the same message delivered at a significantly lower volume. But there was no plan for the next four years and no apology for his failures -- just a lot of attacks on his opponent, Joe Biden." Bill McGowan and Juliana Silva praised Biden and faulted Trump on a key facet of the debate: connecting with the television audience. Trump s "lack of eye contact validated perhaps one of the biggest raps against him: His total inability to empathize with the plight of average Americans. Imagine the points Trump could have scored had he looked directly into the camera and spoke about the frequency with which his thoughts turn to those families who have been impacted by the pandemic and how his heart aches for what they ve been through." The missed opportunity for Trump to speak truth to American voters about the pandemic stood in sharp relief to the op-ed by another Covid-19 survivor, Trump ally Chris Christie, in the Wall Street Journal. Christie, who suffers from asthma, spent a week in the intensive care unit and had plenty of time to reflect. "When you get this disease, it hits you how easy it is to prevent," he wrote. "We are asked to wear cloth over our mouth and nose, wash our hands and avoid crowds. These minor inconveniences can save your life, your neighbors and the economy. Seldom has so little been asked for so much benefit. Yet the message will be broadly heeded only if it is consistently and honestly delivered by the media, religious leaders, sports figures and public servants." Christie pointedly failed to note that Trump, for whom he has been an adviser, has been central in sowing confusion over mask-wearing. Barrett on the verge Republican control of one-and-a-half branches of government — the Presidency and the Senate — is at risk on November 3, but whatever happens, the party is on the verge of cementing a 6-3 conservative majority on the top level of the third branch, the US Supreme Court. At 48, Judge Amy Coney Barrett could spend decades on the highest court if and when she is confirmed this coming week. That is profoundly alarming to economist Jeffrey D. Sachs, who remarked on Barrett s description of global climate change as "a very contentious matter." By refusing to acknowledge the science, Sachs wrote, Barrett fits neatly into Donald Trump s world. "What the United States is really facing in the November election and in Amy Coney Barrett s Supreme Court nomination is whether the country will become a post-truth society," Sachs observed. "Trump, of course, is a post-truth President, lying relentlessly to evade taxes, coddle polluting industries, and protect racist groups from accountability ... Barrett showed that she too is a post-truth nominee and, therefore, a danger to our future." After ducking the question of whether he would favor expanding the Supreme Court, Biden said this week that, if elected, he would appoint a bipartisan commission to study potential court changes. W. Kamau Bell argued that adding more justices is crucial if Democrats win control of the Senate and White House. "Why start with something so impossible sounding with all the crises we have on our plates? Because everything that is essential to our democracy — from protecting voting rights to literally ensuring the survival of this planet by combating climate change — depends on it..." "Conservatives on the Supreme Court know just like Republicans in Congress know and just like the current White House knows that they depend on minority rule for their power," he said. In her confirmation hearing, Barrett didn t tip her hand on how she might rule in the Trump-backed lawsuit to overturn Obamacare, which comes up for oral arguments a week after the election. But her prior skepticism over the court s backing of the Affordable Care Act strikes fear in those dependent on its guarantee of insurance coverage for those with pre-existing conditions. "I ve spent decades fighting to ensure that my disabled children will not face the same obstacles as my disabled parents," wrote Rebecca Cokley. "With Amy Coney Barrett on the Supreme Court, everything and everyone I ve ever fought for could be at risk." Jeneva Stone, of Bethesda, Maryland, wrote that her "son Rob is 23 years old. He follows politics, enjoys sips of whiskey, and loves baseball. He also has a rare form of dystonia, a feeding tube, and a tracheostomy, among other pre-existing medical conditions. He uses a speech-generating computerized device to communicate with us." If the ACA is struck down, "Rob would be uninsurable, like so many of his disabled peers." Freedom for peace? President Trump s complaints about mail-in ballots and his talk of a "rigged" election have raised fears that he might refuse to surrender power if he loses the election. Joe Lockhart isn t convinced they would play out. It s not because Trump is committed to the fundamentals of democracy, he wrote, but because "the President will put his own interests ahead of the country s, as he always does. And that may actually guarantee a peaceful transition of power." Trump s company is under investigation by prosecutors, and he has personally guaranteed hundreds of millions in debt coming due in the next few years, according to the New York Times. "Trump is good at recognizing the personal risks he faces and staying one step ahead of his personal demise," Lockhart wrote. Blowing up US democracy would vastly complicate any effort to make a deal. "What can Trump give prosecutors, creditors and potential investors to allow him to live his life freely and build the kind of media empire he so craves? What he can give them is — wait for it — a peaceful transition of power. Freedom for peace." For more on the election: Joshua Douglas: The scary part of the Supreme Court s ruling on Pennsylvania s mail-in ballots James Moore: The new Texas "Spindletop" might be ready to blow Jon Talton: Republicans may be losing their grip on Arizona Richard L. Hasen: What if there s no winner on November 4? Anushay Hossain: Let s not pretend David Perdue wasn t being racist about Kamala Harris Joseph Jimmy Sankaituah: I survived Liberia s civil wars. Here s my advice to American voters Jiang Xueqin: Why China doesn t care who wins the White House Peniel Joseph: Why Ice Cube s political logic is so dangerous Covid-19 in small-town America The overall national statistics on Covid-19 don t fully tell the tale of its spread. Infectious disease expert Dr. Kent Sepkowitz pointed out that the "surges across the nation ... are occurring in different areas than the initial spring months of the pandemic, which was most pronounced in large Northern cities, or the summer increase among Southern states." It s "being felt most acutely by small-town America." No one knows for sure why this is happening, but a contributing factor could be the presence of prisons in many areas with lower populations. "Many prisons are overcrowded, provide uneven access to medical care, lack capacity to isolate, and are the object of societal neglect. In addition, prison employees may both introduce infection to the facilities or else catch Covid-19 at work and bring it into the community," Sepkowitz wrote. Alyssa Klein s 41-year-old brother David, who died in March from a drug overdose, won t be officially counted as a victim of the pandemic. He should be, she argued. "Though he faced substance use disorder throughout his adult life, David was sober nearly the entire year leading up to the pandemic. When I saw him over dinner and donuts last November on a visit to Los Angeles, he was crushing life. I was proud of him. My handsome, charming big brother finally had it together." A personal trainer, he "loved being a dad and absolutely adored his little girl." When the pandemic struck, he lost not only his expected promotion but his job. His support network was suddenly gone. Are you ready to be frightened? In the world before the pandemic, the playful spookiness of Halloween came as a welcome diversion for many. And, as Holly Thomas noted, "back in early March, when Covid-19 was still a new concept that hadn t materially affected so many people s lives, many people started obsessively watching the 2011 thriller Contagion, in which Gwyneth Paltrow plays patient zero in a pandemic that ravages the globe. Lists were published of similar disease disaster-themed movies to enjoy, and for some at least, the idea of an actual global pandemic clearly still felt abstract enough to proffer an odd frisson of excitement while watching a fictional one on screen." But now, "little on our entertainment screens has provoked as much noise as the saccharine, candy floss-light, Emily In Paris. We ve maxed out on dread, and are investing instead in the glossy, culturally-insensitive adventures of a hot social media manager." "Halloween-as-usual embodies the spirit of both these cultural benchmarks. You get the thrill of a temporary fright, and the silly, sugary kick of all the trimmings that go alongside it. But put them together in the new world we re living in, and the whole thing feels out of sync." Don t cancel this year s Halloween for kids, Thomas wrote. But maybe for adults, it s time for a rethink.
President Trump has repeatedly refused to commit to leave office peacefully if he loses the election. Instead he rails about voter fraud and a rigged election. His untruths and obstinacy are by now an old story, but they remain both dangerous to our democracy and maybe to our lives if the President continues on this path.Many law enforcement and homeland security experts have raised the alarm about possible violence after a contested election. Nothing in the President s words or behavior suggests that he will be a calming force or will leave the White House without a fight, either in the courthouse or the streets. We all know, after four years of this, that it s a pretty good bet he will make a bad situation worse. I share many of these worries. But I m not expecting the worst. Not because Trump will have an attack of conscience -- I don t think he has a conscience. And not because he will put the country ahead of his own personal interests -- that fantasy is no longer even debatable. I simply assume, as you should, that if he loses next month, the President will put his own interests ahead of the country s, as he always does. And that may actually guarantee a peaceful transition of power. Donald J. Trump has a powerful survival instinct. Recent news reports have exposed what a terrible businessman he is, over many decades. His presidency has been an international calamity, alienating our allies and empowering dictators and other enemies. America is stumbling through the worst pandemic in 100 years, with an economy that is teetering on the brink. At the center of these tragedies is our President, a member of the survival Hall of Fame. He has survived multiple bankruptcies of his companies, massive legal judgments and a business instinct that can best be described as "How to lose money without even trying."But somehow, every time, after every colossal failure, he has always been able to repackage himself and sell the next version of Donald Trump to the public. Real estate developer. Casino mogul. Reality TV star. President of the United States. This pattern has been noted by the President s biographer Michael D Antonio, who says that Trump in times of peril has always found a way to protect the thing he values most -- his self-image. "It s not success as others see it, or achievement as others define it," D Antonio told me recently. "What matters to him is the story he can tell himself, or sell to himself, in order to feel like he prevailed. That instinct is one of many that allows him second, third and fourth chances at escape and reinvention." And it s those very instincts that may lead a defeated Trump to just leave town. Trump is good at recognizing the personal risks he faces and staying one step ahead of his personal demise. That skill seems likely to kick in right about now, because Trump has a lot to be really worried about. First, even if he pardons himself for all federal crimes, the state of New York and the district attorney of Manhattan are reportedly well along in investigations into his business practices. And since pardoning himself is not yet a tested constitutional right, the Department of Justice could drop a legal anvil on his head next year on multiple issues including obstruction of justice, tax fraud and defrauding the Treasury through payments to the Trump Organization.The second worry is purely financial. He owes hundreds of millions of dollars, according to The New York Times. He will need some flexibility from his creditors and a new business venture to make that money quickly Paid speeches will help, but won t generate a billion dollars. Here s where the survival instinct will kick in. What can Trump give prosecutors, creditors and potential investors to allow him to live his life freely and build the kind of media empire he so craves? What he can give them is -- wait for it -- a peaceful transition of power. Freedom for peace. To avoid violence in the streets, prosecutors of all stripes may decide it is in their -- and the country s -- interest to cut a deal. Trump may agree to go quietly to save his own skin. There is the basis of the win-win. And the same goes for creditors and investors. There is not a bank in the world whose shareholders would allow any renegotiation of credit terms with a man who s promoting violence on the American streets and creating international instability in the capital markets. No one is going to bankroll the Trump media network if our cities are burning and Trump is lighting the match.So, all sides in theory will have incentive to make a deal. As much as it might pain our new president, peace may be better for the country than revenge. The same goes for politicians of both parties and every institution involved with Trump. In the end, the one thing that has severely damaged this country from Day One -- Trump s utter devotion to himself -- may serve all of us in the end. We know he only cares about himself and will believe whatever he tells himself. That form of narcissism may just be the disease that allows all of us, especially our democracy, to survive this grave threat.
Anybody who knows the history of the United States knows that this country requires big, impossible-sounding ideas to make it live up to its promises of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Freeing enslaved Africans: A big, impossible sounding idea. Giving women the right to vote was -- until 100 years ago -- also a big, impossible sounding idea. So impossible sounding that at first America only gave it to White women. Marriage equality becoming the law of the land was a big, impossible sounding idea up until the moment it popped up as a news alert on your phone. Well, today, saving our democracy is the big and urgent task in front of us. We have a President using the debate stage to riff off some new election conspiracy theories, encourage his base to engage in voter intimidation, give white supremacist and far-right groups a new slogan and making us all afraid that he won t leave office peacefully. We have the unthinkable loss of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg weeks before the election, and Mitch McConnell determined to overturn his own rule to race a nominee through this month to fill her seat. And we have a Supreme Court in a position to overturn the Affordable Care Act in November and a nation being shaken to its core by social unrest. But with the stakes this high, there is momentum to finally act -- to do big things to save our democracy. And the game plan, if Joe Biden wins the White House and Democrats take the Senate, is clear: we must expand the Supreme Court to make it more representative of America. And before you toss this idea aside as a load of balderdash and blame it on the fact that I ve been sheltering in place for too long, hear me out. Actually just hear history out. The Supreme Court s numbers have changed before ... six times, in fact. SIX TIMES! Once with the help of a president named Thomas Jefferson. And it would not even take a constitutional amendment to expand the court. (I know how much some of you hate those for some reason.) It would only take Congress passing a bill. And Schoolhouse Rock taught me that isn t hard to do. Why start with something so impossible sounding with all the crises we have on our plates? Because everything that is essential to our democracy -- from protecting voting rights to literally ensuring the survival of this planet by combating climate change -- depends on it. And just like all the other impossible dreams this nation has made a reality -- like landing on the moon and watching "Citizen Kane" on a rectangle you keep in your pocket -- the sooner we start working on it, the sooner we get there. Take Back The Court (disclosure: I m on the Board of this organization) released a study detailing how legislation granting statehood to Washington DC would likely be struck down by the current majority-conservative court. The inequity of that is evident when you consider that DC is a bright blue Democratic spot that is so Black, proud, and powerful that it earned the nickname "Chocolate City". A small, overwhelmingly White and conservative group telling a large group of Black folks what to do wasn t a good look in 1820 -- and it s still not in 2020. Take Back The Court also has a study showing this Court would likely invalidate H.R.1., legislation which includes essential and common sense provisions to end gerrymandering, register every eligible American voter automatically, reduce the influence of big money in federal elections and prohibit voter purges. If you are against any of those ideas then congratulations, you are against democracy. This research reflects the landscape before the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the all-but-guaranteed confirmation of President Trump s nominee, Amy Coney Barrett. It s even more grim now. Court expansion is the only way we can ensure these policies can survive judicial review. And these are just two of the many republic-altering potential cases that are heading the Supreme Court s way. Let s not forget about the Affordable Care Act, reproductive justice and on and on. Just look at how Senate Republicans handled the last few Supreme Court seats. They wouldn t give Merrick Garland a hearing, but they were so excited to give Amy Coney Barrett a hearing that some of them were even willing to risk getting the coronavirus. Senate Republicans have stolen the court as part of their effort to destroy democracy itself. They know they re a minority party. They know that a truly level playing field would mean that they likely wouldn t win a presidential election again, at least until they pried the party out of the GOP s old, White hands. And leading Republicans care about their power much more than they care about democracy, much more than they care about logic, much more than they apparently care about humanity, much more than they care about science, much more than they care about you or me -- even if you happen to be a Republican. Don t believe me? Then why were so many of them so excited to see Trump do his dictator cosplay taking off his mask on the balcony after he was released from the hospital? It didn t look Jeffersonian. It looked Kim Jong Un-ian. Conservatives on the Supreme Court know just like Republicans in Congress know and just like the current White House knows that they depend on minority rule for their power. Republicans have lost the popular vote in six presidential elections since 1992 -- but they ve chosen 15 of the last 19 Supreme Court justices (and trying to make that 16 as we speak). And this is all happening in a country that our kids are being taught every day is a democracy. And that teaching is occurring mostly over Zoom (because of the US s failure to stem the coronavirus pandemic and without adequate support from the government) -- again, the GOP doesn t believe in science or humanity. The result of all this will be an activist conservative Court that represents a narrow minority of Americans. And the court works hand-in-hand with Republican politicians to sustain their own power and thwart the will of the American people -- of course that means turning back DC statehood and expanded voting rights. Let me be very clear: The big picture of America doesn t work well for most Americans. It works best for White men with extreme wealth and privilege. And this is a wealth and privilege that is expanding during the pandemic while many Americans lives are collapsing. And White, wealthy and privileged describes the makeup of most of our current Court. The way we get America to be the equitable, just and great place it claims to be — but has never quite been -- is by expanding the Supreme Court. It s been done before and we can do it again. And don t worry, even when we expand the Court, rich, White guys will still do just fine. I promise.
The call of the Lord Jesus from the beginning of his ministry on earth is for us to repent and return to God. Thus, He calls us in Mark 1: 15 saying: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” Shall we respond to this call while we are on the threshold of a new year? His Holiness Pope Tawadros II in his article“ The Time of Departure ”made it clear to us