Back in 1845, the abolitionist James Russell Lowell wrote a poem about the burning issue of slavery that was then partially incorporated into a now familiar hymn that goes “Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide”. For the Republican party, that moment came around a decade and a half later and it chose to defend freedom and the Union. Well, over a century and a half later that moment has once again come for the Republican party and this time it has chosen sedition.
Only 27 Republican members of Congress have openly accepted Joe Biden’s election. 126 Republican members of the House, over 60% of the entire GOP caucus signed on to support a legal challenge that asked the Supreme Court to disenfranchise 40 million voters in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Georgia, and allow state legislatures to appoint Electors in their place in order to prevent Biden from becoming President. Not only did the top two Republicans in the House support that legal challenge but Attorney’s General in eighteen primarily Republican states did as well. All of them are supporting what the Pennsylvania Attorney General rightly called the “seditious abuse of the judicial process”. 27 House Republicans have now asked the DOJ to appoint a special counsel to investigate election irregularities. Stephen Miller is now floating the idea that the administration will round up the unelected Trump Electors as an alternate slate of Electors in the aforementioned four states and others and present those votes to Congress when it officially tallies the Electoral College votes on January 6th. In addition, there are reportedly plans afoot for Republicans to challenge the elected Electors from those same four states as part of the same process.
Yesterday, as the Electoral College actually voted, the entire Michigan Capitol was shut down after credible threats of violence, with one threat directly coming from a Republican legislator. One Michigan Elector was so fearful he wore a bulletproof vest. In Arizona, the Electors met in an undisclosed location in an attempt to prevent violence. In Wisconsin, Electors apparently used a secret entrance to avoid harassment. Over the weekend, the Trump-supporting Proud Boys, whose leader visited the White House earlier in Saturday, went on a rampage through Washington, DC following a Stop the Steal rally. In Georgia, organized armed groups marched on the state capitol in conjunction with the Stop the Steal rally in that state.
Going forward, we can expect to see Republican legislatures use the myth of 2020 voter fraud to further expand voter suppression and restrict the power of primarily minority and Democratic voters. In fact, many of the Republican legal challenges to the election filed with the courts specifically tried to make the claim that NOT engaging in voter suppression was actually unconstitutional. In other words, Democratic votes, by definition, are unconstitutional. For Republicans, more voter suppression will be the tactic in 2022 but for 2024 they are now signaling a willingness for some Republican-controlled states to amend their voting laws to allow the legislature to choose the Electors for the Electoral College, perhaps ignoring the will of their own citizens and not even bothering to hold a presidential election at all.
As Chris Murphy has rightfully noted, “Right now, the most serious attempt to overthrow our democracy in the history of our of country is underway. Those who are pushing to make Donald Trump President, no matter the outcome of the election, are engaged in a treachery against their nation…For much of the last four years, we thought the problem was that Republicans knew what the right thing was, but they just didn’t do it because Trump was so scary. I think this moment is showing us that there are a whole lot of Republicans who believe this nonsense…This is a party that has a whole bunch of enemies of democracy inside its top ranks. That’s bone-chilling”.
Today, the two parties in America are no longer the Democratic and Republican parties. Instead, as Steve Schmidt describes it, there is only the Democracy coalition and the autocratic Trump party. As we have seen, many Republicans in Congress have chosen to be a part of the Trump party. For those other Republicans who refuse to say whether Biden is the next President, their silence is complicity in an attempt to overturn a democratic election. They too have chosen to side with the Trump party. They have all made their choice to be enemies of democracy and that can not be erased if and when, in the days or months ahead, they finally succumb to the truth and acknowledge the Biden presidency.
But there is another elite group whose silence also speaks to complicity with the autocratic Trump party, namely America’s business leaders. After making all the right noises in the immediate aftermath of the election, business leaders have remained silent as Trump attempted to overturn the results of a democratic election. Shortly after the election, a couple of dozen of America’s leading CEOs apparently met to discuss how to deal with any attempt by Trump to stay in office. According to one member of that meeting, the leaders agreed that if Trump’s actions threatened the peaceful transition of power then they would begin to pressure Republican members of Congress to defend our democracy using either public or private pressure.
In addition, business lobbying organizations such as the Business Roundtable, the US Chamber of Commerce, and that National Association of Manufacturers all reportedly met individually to discuss the same issue. The Business Roundtable acknowledged Biden’s win, releasing a statement saying, “Business Roundtable congratulates President-elect Biden on his election as 46th President of the United States. We also congratulate Vice President-elect Harris on her historic accomplishment as the first woman, Black woman and person of South Asian descent to be elected Vice President of the United States”. Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon made a similar statement, sending “Congratulations to President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris on their victory”.
About a week later, on November 19th, the US Chamber of Commerce and the National Association for Manufacturers called on the Trump administration to begin the transition, at least tacitly admitting Biden’s victory. A day earlier, JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon was even more blunt, saying, “We need a peaceful transition. We had an election. We have a new president”. That was followed by a letter from the Partnership for New York, which includes over 160 CEOs, that stated, “Every day that an orderly presidential transition process is delayed, our democracy grows weaker in the eyes of our own citizens and the nation’s stature on the global stage is diminished. Our national interest and respect for the integrity of our democratic process requires that the administrator of the federal General Services Administration immediately ascertain that Joseph R. Biden and Kamala D. Harris are the president-elect and vice president-elect so that a proper transition can begin”.
Trump confidant and Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwartzman told CNBC on November 23, “I’m a fan of good process…But the outcome is very certain today, and the country should move on…Like many in the business community, I am ready to help President-elect Biden and his team as they confront the significant challenges of rebuilding our post-COVID economy”. Schwartzman had been part of those original discussions about what business leaders should do if Trump refused to leave and reportedly was one of the few in that meeting who defended Trump’s response to the election. In the meantime, in the aftermath of the election, Schwartzman gave $15 million to the Senate Leadership PAC. Citadel founder Kenneth Griffin gave $10 million and the founders of Home Depot and TD Ameritrade founder each gave $1 million. All that money was primarily funneled to the Senate runoff campaigns of Republicans Loeffler and Perdue in Georgia in early January. Both of those candidates have refused to acknowledge Biden’s victory, have amplified the mythical claims of voter fraud, and have called upon the Republican Secretary of State to resign for not finding the fraud that does not exist.
But, since the transition actually began, business leaders have been remarkably silent, even as the attempts by Trump and Republicans to steal the election become even more brazen; even as the threats against election officials increase; even as election violence spills out in the streets; even as Republicans choose to openly oppose democracy. If those business leaders that met in the immediate aftermath of the election have now made private entreaties to get congressional Republicans to accept Trump’s defeat, those pleas have clearly fallen on deaf ears. Perhaps these business leaders are content to let the process play itself out without their input. That approach, however, will leave us with a weakened Biden presidency where a large percentage of Republicans and nearly three-quarters of Trump supporters believe that Biden has no legitimacy. Sadly, that is probably exactly the result business wants. Today, the silence from business leaders speaks volumes. Like the Republicans in Congress, the moment to decide has come, and they have made their choice.
Originally published at https://thesoundings.com on December 15, 2020.