In my column of Tuesday, September 22, 2020, I deliberately did not object to consideration of President Trump’s forthcoming nominee for the Supreme Court. While I reserved the right to object to the nominee, depending on her record and judicial philosophy, I did not protest Trump’s right to have his nominee considered by the Senate.
In taking this position, I intentionally made no mention of the Mitch McConnell/Merrick Garland controversy. Both political parties have been equally abusive and hypocritical in the Senate judicial confirmation process. I served in the administration of George W. Bush, and I remember all too well how Democratic Senators arbitrarily and capriciously blocked consideration of the federal appellate court judicial nominations of Bush 43.
Yesterday, however, two events occurred that have totally changed the context of the selection of the successor to the late Justice Ruth Ginsburg. These two events make it irrefutably and abundantly clear that Donald Trump is attempting to prevent a fair and free presidential election from taking place on November 3 and that he is using his forthcoming Supreme Court nomination to accomplish this goal.
The first was Trump’s unequivocal statement at his press conference that he is refusing to consent to a peaceful transfer of power at the end of his term. He emphasized that he would not recognize as legitimate an election where the voters have a right to vote by mail. A primary purpose of enactment of vote by mail procedures this year (VBM) was to enable African-Americans, disproportionately victimized by the Coronavirus and lack of convenient access to polling places, to vote in this election.
Trump wants to disenfranchise African-Americans to the maximum extent possible. He knows that he cannot win an election where Black Americans may freely cast their ballots.
And most egregiously, Trump flat out stated that he demands and expects his Supreme Court nominee to vote to invalidate the presidential election in states where VBM is authorized, thereby ratifying his attempt to disenfranchise Black America.
How can any US Senator with any adherence to democracy vote for any Trump nominee, regardless of her qualifications, under these circumstances?
The Trump authoritarian efforts to refuse to leave office at the end of his term and peacefully transfer power constitutes an act of fascism. The Trump attempt to perpetuate himself in office beyond his lawful term and defy the wishes of the people constitutes an act of fascism. The Trump racist attempt to disenfranchise. African-Americans constitutes an act of fascism. Racism is an integral component of fascism.
And yesterday at his press conference, Donald Trump directly communicated to his prospective Supreme Court nominee, whoever she may be, that he demands and expects that she participates as his partner in these anti-democratic, fascistic acts. How can the Senate consider the confirmation of any Trump nominee under these circumstances?
Yet the second event of yesterday, the publication of the article by Barton Gellman in Atlantic magazine entitled “The Election That Could Break America,” was even more frightening. The article discusses contingency plans by Republican allies of the president to claim fraud in states where the vote count shows Biden in the lead and ask GOP state legislators to set aside the popular vote and exercise their power to choose a slate of Trump-committed electors directly. This is a direct fascistic attempt to deprive the voters of democracy in Democratic presidential voting states and establish Republican legislatures as mini-fascistic Reichstags.
Again, Donald Trump will expect his Supreme Court nominee to be his partner in these attempts to destroy American democracy.
No, although it is beyond doubt that Donald Trump is a fascist, I will not compare him with Adolf Hitler. One out of every four members of my extended paternal family was murdered in Hitler’s Holocaust. Donald Trump is not promoting genocide. He is, however, capable of setting Reichstag fires.
Yet I will compare Trump with the non-genocidal prototype Italian Fascist Benito Mussolini. Trump’s Blackshirts are the Jim Jordans and the Sean Hannitys.
And like Mussolini, Trump in his second term will have at the top of his agenda the essential Fascistic goal of suppression of freedom of the press. He gave it away when he publicly rejoiced in the fact that journalist Ali Velshi of MSNBC was struck in the leg with a rubber bullet while covering the demonstrations in Minneapolis after the police murder of George Floyd.
In a second Trump term, I fully expect that Trump journalistic critics like me will be placed in internment camps. And I say that without being paranoiac.
Last night, I literally could not sleep as I pondered the perilous state of American democracy under Donald Trump. I did remember a time when courageous Republicans rose in protest against former President Richard Nixon’s attempts to subvert the Constitution for his own benefit.
I speak of the Saturday Night Massacre, October 20, 1973, when Nixon fired Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox. Two Republicans of outstanding competence and character, Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General Bill Ruckelshaus resigned in protest, rather than carry out Nixon’s order to fire Cox. A fair number of Republican Senators and Representatives rose in defense of Richardson and Ruckelshaus.
Today, you will search in vain in the GOP for a Richardson or Ruckelshaus. You will hear very few Republicans of prominence protest Trump’s fascistic actions. With the exception of Mitt Romney, the Republicans in the United States Senate constitute a cowardly college of pusillanimous poltroons.
The Republican Party I revered was once a great party of patriotism, democracy, economic opportunity, and condemnation of racism, symbolized by great presidents like Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, and Ronald Reagan and outstanding governors of New Jersey like Tom Kean.
Today, America’s Republican Party is a vast Jonestown wasteland, with Donald Trump as Jim Jones and Trump Kool-Aid drinkers like US Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Josh Hawley of Missouri, eager to inherit the Trumpist tribal throne.
At best, today’s Republican Party is, to paraphrase Brian Klaas of the Washington Post, a party of authoritarian populism. At worst, it is an American Falange, a party of isolationist ultra-nationalism, hierarchical discrimination, and aggressive authoritarianism, but without the Falangist doctrine of establishment of a state religion.
Now, at this season of the Jewish High Holidays, I would like to apply the teachings of the Torah to my agony of my final years in the Republican Party, ending in 2018.
My Bar Mitzvah portion of the Torah, back on November 17, 1962 was Vayeirah, from the book of Breishit (Genesis). The portion describes Abraham and his efforts to save the city of Sodom from the wrath of HaShem (the Almighty) by vainly searching for ten righteous men.
Like Abraham, I searched for ten righteous Republicans in the United States Congress, House and Senate during the Trump years. I could not find them.
Yet today, long after I made the decision to leave the Trumpist GOP, I found a righteous Republican, Congressman Steve Stivers of Ohio. He served with valor as an Army Battalion Commander in Operation Iraqi Freedom, winning a Bronze Star.
Read the words of Steve Stivers from his Tweets this morning, issued in reaction to Trump’s fascistic actions of yesterday:
Nothing defines our Constitutional Republic more than the peaceful transition of power. I’ve taken an oath to support and defend the Constitution, and I will uphold that oath.
Regardless of how divided our country is right now, when elections are over and winners are declared, we must all commit ourselves to the Constitution and accept the results.
God bless Steve Stivers. And God save America.
Alan J. Steinberg served as regional administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and as executive director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission.