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Posts published in December 2020

All uphill from here

mckee

Let me be clear: the election process was not perfect, but that is not the issue. The issue is whether the individual instances of errors and irregularities that would inevitably have occurred in any election of this size can be combined into some sort of massive, criminal scheme carried out under the direction of the Democratic Party that would have impacted the outcome of the entire election adversely to the re-election of Donald Trump?

This is what Trump is claiming. It should be considered complete baloney by all quarters, but it is not.

The growing emphasis on one-man, one-vote, the insistence on greater transparency, and the advent of technology, television, and the 24-hour news cycle have combined to virtually put an end to the corrupt political practices that spotted former times of our election history. In a recent study titled “The Truth About Voter Fraud” by Justin Levitt, published in 2007 by the NYU School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice, the author concluded after a lengthy investigation covering all states that by any measure, voter irregularities have become extraordinarily rare. While he found allegations of voter improprieties were common, investigation invariably revealed that most claims were without basis or were greatly exaggerated. The author concluded that “[M]uch evidence that purports to reveal voter fraud can be traced to causes far more logical.…” The cataloged reasons found by the author were clerical or typographical errors, lack of uniformity between voter rolls when compared with other sources, and just plain innocent mistakes. The 2020 election appears to fit his conclusions.

In Trump’s thirty-some lawsuits challenging the vote in six states, handfuls of anecdotal instances of alleged irregularities were presented with the argument that they were representative of a wide-spread fraudulent conspiracy in the election process. However, when the affidavits were examined in detail, the anecdotes recited did not include any evidence of any connection between the incidents being described and the Democratic Party organization, or on the existence of any overall plan or scheme, or contain any of the specific elements necessary to prove fraud.

According to the Washington Post summaries, most of the instances reported as irregularities were technical mistakes that were caught and corrected in due course before the final count was determined. Other incidents were based on hearsay reports from unidentified workers to election observers rather than from the workers themselves pertaining to optional processes allowed by law and being taken in some precincts but not in others, or of irrelevant confrontations with the Republican observers. None went beyond describing an action the writer thought seemed peculiar with the writer’s conclusion that things were improper. In most instances, the affidavit writers were Republican observers who were untrained and unfamiliar with the processes they were observing. When examined, the circumstances mostly turned out to be normal steps in the complicated processes involved. In any event, the isolated Instances, even if illegal, would not be evidence that the entire process was tainted absent additional proof. Collecting a large number of such individual instances does not improve the proof; it is still only evidence of separate, individual incidents.

Republicans argue that statistical results were out of whack with what had been experienced in previous elections, and that this was circumstantial evidence from which one could assume irregularities from the numbers. However, in this case, the circumstances are completely explainable. 2020 was an extraordinary election because of the Covid-19 pandemic and because of the political spin placed on mail-in voting by Trump. Early polls and surveys indicated that a huge number of Democrats – many times more than in previous years – intended to vote by mail. Trump, on the other hand, was castigating the mail-in voting process and Republicans, by and large, were being encouraged to vote in person. Everyone – even Republican sources – predicted that the mail-in vote would heavily favor the Democrats. Everyone – even the Republicans – were aware that the early vote counts would not be indicative of the final totals until the mail-in vote was counted. The resulting returns happened almost exactly as predicted, with the totals being very close to that predicted by the pre-election polls. The law does not allow one to choose a result from circumstantial evidence that can be fully explained more than one way.

What is missing from all of the affidavits surveyed so far, and all of the arguments advanced in court so far, is direct proof of any sort of actual common plan or scheme by the Democrats that could tie the disparate collection of irregularities together, or any proof of fraudulent intent on the part of any Democratic leaders in directing or arranging for the irregularities at any of the voting levels involved. Even if statistical proof of irregularities existed (which it actually does not) or could be taken as valid in questioning an election (which it actually cannot) it would not help establish the specific criminal elements of the massive corruption Trump is alleging. Statistics may not be used to prove the necessary specific criminal intent or the existence of a plan or scheme, which are the necessary elements of a fraudulent conspiracy. There are no assumptions or presumptions here – it takes direct evidence of the wrongful acts or circumstantial evidence that cannot be explained any other way.

The deficiencies in these affidavits as admissible evidence in court was obvious and was why they were found unacceptable in every case by the several courts in all six states where litigation has been attempted. It should be noted that several instances were findings by trial judges recently appointed by Trump. In no case has any court found there to be any proof of fraudulent intent on the part of the Biden Campaign or the leaders of the Democratic party, nor has there been any direct proof of any agreements between or among these entities pertaining to the election process.

In fact, and in the real world, criminal conspiracies are almost always broken up by either turning an insider into a prosecution witness or by inserting an undercover agent into the operation who works his way into a position to uncover the entire operation. Without insider testimony, these cases are very difficult to put together and try. In the election cases, and despite the fact that the Department of Justice, the F.B.I. and John Durham, the special prosecutor appointed by the Attorney General, have all been working on election problems for over a year, there is no suggestion of any leaks that have occurred and are being followed up, or of any knowledgeable insider who has come forward with an offer of testimony, or of an undercover agent embedded in any state operation. Attorney General Barr conceded in a recent interview that neither the Department of Justice nor the F.B.I. had any evidence of any fraud in any of the counting that would alter the course of the election.

Nevertheless, Trump continues to maintain his drumbeat claim and that he actually won and that the entire election was a massive, fraudulent conspiracy manufactured by the Democratic Party and the Biden campaign. He knows that if he keeps repeating his claims over and over again, eventually somebody will begin accepting them as true. And this is exactly what is happening.

According to a recent post-election poll, 77% of Trump voters believe as a fact that Trump won the election and that Biden’s victory is the result of a fraudulent conspiracy by the Democrats. Factoring this percentage against Trump’s total vote means that fully 57 million adult American voters believe the election to have been fraudulent.

Most of us will heave a sigh of relief when President-Elect Biden finally takes over in January, but unless something changes, it is still going to be all uphill.
 

Failing its McCarthy moment

johnson

Sixty-six years ago this week – December 2, 1954 – the United States Senate voted to censure Wisconsin Republican Joseph McCarthy. The vote was 67 in favor, 22 opposed. The very public rebuke effectively marked the end of McCarthy’s lie-infused assault on American democracy.

During his four-year run, the burly bully from Appleton dominated headlines and ruined careers with his reckless and unproven allegations that Communists had infiltrated the federal government. As his reign of political terror advanced toward censure by his own colleagues, McCarthy became ever more brazen, even attacking the patriotism of members of the United States Army.

McCarthy’s followers condemned Dwight Eisenhower, the celebrated supreme allied commander of European victory in World War II, as “a communist.” McCarthy used a Senate speech to attack General George Marshall, one of the great heroes of 20th Century America, for being soft on communism. Marshall’s biographer says McCarthy’s speech was so hysterically over the top, so obviously full of innuendo and bad faith, that few senators remained in their seats to listen to the tirade, but few also condemned it.

When the roll was called in the Senate on McCarthy’s censure in 1954, Idaho’s two Republican senators – Henry Dworshak and Herman Welker – refused to condemn McCarthy, indeed they defended him, made excuses, embraced his delusions. According to contemporary accounts, Welker prowled the Senate floor during the censure vote muttering threats to those attempting to hold McCarthy to account. Dworshak, handpicked by McCarthy, served on the committee that investigated McCarthy’s wild accusations against the Army but made little contribution. One McCarthy biographer said the Wisconsin senator effectively silenced the “timid” Dworshak and publicly insulted him by wishing he had selected someone else.

The events surrounding McCarthy during that long-ago December seem both a distance echo of American history and as fresh as today’s front page. As the conservative commentator Jonah Goldberg wrote recently, “McCarthy liked to insist he had evidence of communists in the government, but he couldn’t show you the names right now. The number of communist infiltrators on his secret list changed from speech to speech.”

In this December we are experiencing a new kind of McCarthyism updated for the Trump Era.

“Listening to President Donald Trump’s legal team claim over and over again that they have voluminous evidence that the election was stolen,” Goldberg says, “it occurred to me that we’re in a kind of repeat McCarthy era. Only this time, to borrow from that old-school communist Karl Marx, history is repeating itself not as tragedy but as farce.”

It took four long years for the Senate – and many Republicans – to admit that McCarthy’s protean tactics and political treachery were a genuine threat to the stability of American citizens and institutions, everything from the legal system to the Senate itself. McCarthy intimidated and bullied anyone who questioned him. His weapon was not fact, but intimidation; intimidation meaning if you had the backbone to challenge him McCarthy would summon down the wrath of his supporters on those who stepped out of line.

A handful – Maine’s Republican Senator Margaret Chase Smith most notably – had the courage to confront McCarthy, but most held their tongues while his power grew, and his outrages expanded. “The fifties were like that,” historian Ellen Schrecker wrote in her study of the era, “less a world of fear than of silence.”

Nearly a month on from the presidential election that will turn Donald Trump out of the White House, a firehose of lies about voter fraud and rigged elections tumble from the presidential Twitter feed to be amplified by his minions on cable television and across the Internet. The lies have been refuted repeatedly by a bipartisan collection of state election officials, Trump’s own attorney general and the cyber security expert the president fired for truthfully saying the recent election was the most secure in American history.

In a true McCarthyesque through the looking glass turn, William Barr, the Trump appointed attorney general who has defended the president at every turn, is now dismissed as a traitor and agent of “the deep state” for saying there is no evidence of fraud that would change the election outcome.

A Republican election official in Georgia, one of many needing police protection now for doing his job in a state where Trump continues to lie about a rigged election, demanded this week that Trump end the deceit, saying “Someone’s gonna get shot. Someone’s gonna get killed…and it’s not right. It’s not right.” The official, Gabriel Sterling, put a fine point on what is happening with his fellow Republicans. “This is elections,” Sterling said, his voice quivering with indignation. “This is the backbone of democracy, and all of you who have not said a damn word are complicit in this. It’s too much.”

Yet, all of this – the lying, conspiracy theories, attacks on an election that wasn’t really all that close, the full-on assault on democracy – has engendered a world of silence from most elected Republicans. They are ending the Trump presidency as they began – with eclairs for backbones. And no Republican senators better exemplify this chicken-hearted response than the two from Idaho who now fill the seats once held by McCarthy’s enablers.

Jim Risch is proving to be a worthy heir to Henry Dworshak. While Dworshak is remembered in Idaho, to the extent that he is remembered, for a big dam on the Clearwater River, the history books (briefly) note him only as a dead ender for Joe McCarthy. Risch has gone all the way up and now all the way down with Trump.

Mike Crapo, twenty years in the Senate, has little more to show for that tenure than Herman Welker, the angry senator and credulous McCarthy defender whose seat he now occupies.

A month on from the November election, neither man has uttered a word of condemnation, concern or care about Trump’s blatant attack on democracy even as the conservative National Review points out, “Almost nothing that the Trump team has alleged has withstood the slightest scrutiny.”

Crapo and Risch seem to care less, again to quote National Review, that “Flawed and dishonest assertions like this pollute the public discourse and mislead good people who make the mistake of believing things said by the president of the United States.”

Like Idaho’s Welker and Dworshak from an earlier day, Crapo and Risch will be remembered to history, not as they might hope, but rather because they are complicit in the worst attack on American democracy in the history of the presidency.

It’s just not right.
 

Edging still further

stapiluslogo1

News reports say former state Representative Luke Malek has started work toward running for lieutenant governor in 2022, and that he wants to “work together to solve problems rather than divide people.”

Three thoughts come immediately to mind. First, this sounds like an excellent and needed sentiment, Second, if he’s going to pursue this, he’s wise to get an early start, because what he’s trying to accomplish won’t be easy. The third is that, based on what sounds like a philosophical organizing principle, he may have mistaken coming election cycle for that of something like, say, 1972.

He’s in the right party to win; a working majority of Idaho voters have written off listening to or considering Democrats before they even know who’s running. But as to what it takes to win a Republican Party in today’s atmosphere, well, solutions don’t seem to be of much interest, and neither does unity.

Malek would, moreover, be stepping into the middle of the political hurricane in which that whole dynamic may be put to the test.

There’ve been no formal announcements, but many Idaho political people at this point would be surprised if Idaho’s current lieutenant governor, Janice McGeachin, doesn’t run for governor, presumably against incumbent Brad Little, who’s widely expected to seek a second term.

The two have been at odds, a lot, sometimes even going without speaking for extended periods, and this has not been (at least not primarily) personal: They come from different wings of the Idaho Republican Party. You could fairly consider Little as establishment and business-oriented with a political view probably not drastically different from a Phil Batt or a Dirk Kempthorne. McGeachin is part of the activist, rabble-rousing crowd more like a Sarah Palin or a member of the U.S. House Freedom Caucus, appealing to Donald Trump superfans, more interested in raising hell than in crafting policy.

If they go head to head next year (opening the lieutenant governor spot on the ballot, to circle back to Malek), what happens?

We’re still a year and a half from that primary election, but the trajectory right now is clear. As the writer Chuck Malloy said in a recent column, “Can she win? Absolutely.”

Malloy cites a collection of - well, we’ll call them activists - ranging from the anti-maskers to the militia types and well beyond, who would fall naturally into a McGeachin base. Little has a base too, mainly of mainstream Republicans. But let’s look at the numbers.

In this year’s election Trump, who lost nationally and decisively (you can forget about debating that point), won Idaho with 63.9 percent of the vote, compared to 59.2% in 2016, and with a much larger turnout; the numbers indicate he is more popular in Idaho now than he was four years ago. Anyone running in Idaho not as a Trump acolyte has a serious numbers problem.

That’s of a piece. Two years ago, in a seven-way Republican primary, Russ Fulcher won the Republican nomination in the first congressional district with 43.1% - nearly three times the second-place finisher - running as the leading candidate of the Trump-activist side of the party. (Malek came in third, with 14.3 percent.) That same election, the similarly-positioned McGeachin, running in a five-way for the Republican lieutenant governor nomination, won with 28.9 percent, which was nearly twice her nearest competitor.

True, Little - on that same day - won his primary with 37.3 percent. He had two main competitors, both seeking to pick up votes from the same segment of the party Fulcher and McGeachin were appealing to; in effect, they split the vote of that segment. Had either of those candidates not been in the race, Little probably would not have won.

That dynamic was less true in past election years; in 2014, for example, C.L. “Butch” Otter of the mainstream wing, running for re-election as governor, defeated Fulcher in what was meaningfully a two-way, though not overwhelmingly. But conditions seem to have changed since then.

Idaho politics has been remarkably stable for many years. In 2022, it may take a shift - not of party, but of world view. And candidates like Malek, and maybe Little, may be challenged navigating it.
 

Rationing health care

schmidt

Earlier this month, as the curve of Covid cases climbed nationally, but specifically, here in Idaho, hospital officials warned of the possibility of rationing health care.

Some hospitals have closed their ICUs and diverted patients, and had significant trouble finding an accepting hospital. While this is tragic, and we should all be asking, just what can we do ourselves to lessen this community burden, I find the shock that health care might have to be rationed in this wealthy country a bit of a sick joke. We have always rationed care. Maybe we are ashamed of it, but we should not be denying it.

There is no denying that when hospitals are overwhelmed with sick and dying patients, it is a tragedy. Many warn that we here in Idaho are approaching this status in many locations. Idaho has been a bit behind other locations in the curve, but we are seeing it now. If you or a loved one needs critical care, and it is unavailable, you might feel some injustice in why someone else got the ICU bed and you didn’t. I can understand such feelings. It can make you feel rage, disappointment. Blatant injustice can do that.

But Idaho’s legislature didn’t care too much when about a hundred thousand working poor had no health insurance. And not having health coverage is the easiest form of rationing we do as a country. “Get a job” dismisses the injustice of this. No, we have always rationed health care and we have been pretty blatant, sometimes even proud that we have. After all, to quote a prominent Idaho politician, “Nobody dies for lack of healthcare”.

It comes down to the fundamental question: Do we treat people fair? When you can’t get everything you want, or even dearly need, if there is some sense of justice, fairness in the allocation of resources, the outrage is tempered.

I can remember early in my days of office practice, the nurse I worked with asked me if we were going to have “special patients”.

“What’s that?” I asked.

She blushed. “Well, most doctors have some patients they consider special and will do special things for them. Like refill their prescriptions or treat them over the phone, or get them in to be seen whenever they want.”

“I’m comfortable doing that when the situation warrants.”

“For everybody?”

“If the situation fits. I treat everybody special.”

She smiled and sighed. “OK.”

I realized I just made her job harder, and mine. Giving some people what they want whenever they want it (and not others) can be easier than taking the time to understand each problem. There are all forms of rationing schemes.

Early on in this pandemic there was the rush to have as many ventilators as possible, like that might be the limiting factor. And the personal protective equipment was in short supply, rationed for many. But what we now know, is the actual care, the personal attention from nurses, doctors, staff and the time spent knowing the patient, knowing their illness and their lives is what is truly dear.

We are rationing care. And we, those of us not sick, not struggling for breath or feverish, are limiting the care we show for our fellow citizens. We have done it before, and we are doing it now.

If we really are a rich and great country, why would we embrace this lack of care for our fellow citizens? We have done it before, we are doing it now, in our actions, in our votes. Justice should be the value we embrace when we ration our care. Everybody is special.

Even without a pandemic, we can’t all have everything we want, or maybe even desperately need. But we can pursue justice.
 

Gubernatorial upset in the making?

malloy

Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin has almost no influence in this administration, and it’s no wonder why.

The boss, Gov. Brad Little, is a self-described policy wonk who is as sharp as they come on issues. His decisions on the management of the coronavirus have been guided by scientific data, consultation with health experts and talking with fellow governors to see what he can learn from other states.

He hears criticisms from those who think he has gone too far with his emergency orders, or that he should add a mask requirement, which he has resisted. Legislators complain that the governor has overstepped his authority and has, in some areas, violated the state’s Constitution. Through it all, Little has stayed firm with his actions.

McGeachin’s approach is quite different, as Betsy Russell of the Idaho Press reported last week. In September, McGeachin attended a campaign rally for President Trump in Nevada and came home with a proposal to spend millions of CARES Act funds for installation of disinfectant cubes at the Idaho Capitol. The National Institutes of Health has labeled cubes, which do not meet health standards, as ineffective and potentially dangerous.

Last month, she appeared with several legislators in a video in which the underlying message was that they would ignore future COVID orders. Days later, responding to a surge of COVID cases, Little scaled back the state to Stage 2 of the Idaho Rebounds plan and called on the National Guard for assistance.

So, it’s difficult for those inside the administration to take McGeachin seriously, even though she is the proverbial “heartbeat away” from being governor and temporarily serves as governor when Little is out of the state.

But for McGeachin, her political life does not revolve around what statehouse bureaucrats might say or think about her. She has a title, a platform and a generous following. There are rumblings that McGeachin is preparing to run for Little’s job in 2022, and that would be a good idea. That would mean no more walking on eggshells or worrying about reporters trying to draw her into conflicts with the governor.

In practical terms, McGeachin doesn’t need four more years working with an administration that treats her with the respect of Kermit the Frog. And while she might gain some satisfaction by winning another election as lieutenant governor, four more years in political Siberia won’t accomplish anything either.

Governors can accomplish things in policy and lieutenant governors generally can’t, especially if they are not “team players” in the administration. For lieutenant governors of the past – Butch Otter, Jim Risch and Little – the office has served as a nice landing area while waiting for something better to come along. But that’s not McGeachin’s style. She was elected as the conservative candidate for lieutenant governor and she has continued to play to that base.

Can she win? Absolutely. Think of the people who would support her candidacy -- folks who saw her photos at a Trump rally and wished they were there … friends of the Idaho Freedom Foundation … anybody who hates government … legislators who equate Little to Cuban dictators … angry protesters who broke down a door in the House gallery during a special session this summer … guys who think it’s OK to openly carry firearms into a committee hearing room … those who burned masks in Boise soon after the mayor issued a requirement to wear masks … those who think that the pandemic is overblown and that Dr. Anthony Fauci is a quack doctor … and normal everyday people who think that any form of government lockdowns are just plain wrong.

Candidates have won elections in Idaho with less firepower. It’s a good bet that McGeachin’s support from conservatives is stronger than when she was elected in 2018. In many ways, she reminds me of Helen Chenoweth, the conservative firebrand who during her three terms in Congress was loathed by liberals, scorned on the editorial pages and wildly popular in Idaho’s First District.

For certain, McGeachin would be facing a big challenge by taking on a sitting governor and the political establishment. But as people such as Chenoweth and former Congressman Raul Labrador have shown in the past – and McGeachin herself showed in 2018 -- anti-establishment conservatives do win sometimes.

Chuck Malloy is a long-time Idaho journalist and columnist. He may be reached at ctmalloy@outlook.com.
 

Melting pot no more

rainey

Most of us grew up with the term “melting pot.” We were told America was such because people from other nations had come here, seeking one thing or another. The integration of all those disparate folks into our country was accepted and contributed to our societal “melting.” At one time.

Well, it’s a “melting pot” no more.

Those that used to be “melted” have shown an increasing resistance to accepting the ways of a formerly mostly Caucasian culture, preferring their own and, in some cases, several degrees of separation. Which, for the most part, ain’t all bad. Most of the time.

A formerly “melted” society has, in fact, become a pluralistic society - not a single one i.e. “melted.”

Let’s work with one definition for pluralistic - Merriam-Webster. To wit: “a state of society in which members of diverse ethnic, racial, religious or social groups maintain/develop their traditional culture or special interest within the confines of a common civilization.”

The subject came up at our house through one of my wife’s students. Barb teaches Master’s degree education classes online. Her work draws participants from over the world. This specific subject matter dealt with “ethics and pluralism” in a classroom setting.

To my surprise, most of her students came up with a certain commonality. That being, teachers must openly accept the differences of students; each student brings his/her own view to the conversation; teachers must not make student individuality less important but show that individuality contributes to the whole.

Those factors, taken together, don’t exactly define our nation as a “melting pot,” do they? To me, they speak to a pluralistic society where there are exact differences though they should be accepted “within the confines of a common civilization.” Pluralism defined.

Anyone who thinks this nation is the “melting pot” it may once have been hasn’t visited a major city recently. Take New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington D.C.. Black communities live mostly in one area, with their own radio - often TV stations - and newspapers. Black schools, churches and uniquely Black merchants and stores.

Or, there’s Miami, Phoenix and Houston. Latin. Latin music, radio, TV, markets, restaurants, stores, newspapers.

Or, Los Angeles and Seattle. You’ll find large Asian and Indonesian communities within those cities. Again, Asian and Indonesian music, stores, broadcasters, grocers, newspapers.

Separate and apart. But, all existing in an overall single community or city. Los Angeles. Seattle. Wherever.

Over the years, I’ve lived in some of those cities. Sometimes, I visited the inner-city communities. Sometimes, good vibes. BUT, I’ve been warned to “stay the Hell out” or “get out” or “go back where you came from, Whitey” in some of those locales.

I’ve also seen the reverse. Many times. Too many times. Blacks, Latins, Asians being treated badly, rudely, mockingly, and told by Caucasians to “go back where you came from.” Some even killed though many of those folks had been born here.

So, while we’re all expected to be “Americans,” there are lines within this former “melting pot” some Americans of a different culture often can’t cross. Indivisible lines called “societal” lines by those who study this phenomenon.

While these separate subdivisions of culture and race often work to the benefit of both the inner and outer communities, they can also work against the interests of both.

I’ve previously written of my inability to swear the “Oath of Allegiance” or to sing “America the Beautiful.” The words “liberty and justice for all” simply do not come. Because there isn’t. (Can you say, Colin Kaepernik?) And, we don’t have “alabaster cities gleaming” anymore and really haven’t had since our beginnings as a nation. We certainly don’t have “brotherhood from sea to shining sea” Nor do we have”shining seas.”

I mean no attempt to find good or bad in these separate-but-equal situations - only to use them to point out we no longer “melt” in the way we used to. If we ever did. If we are to define our country now it would seem “pluralistic” is a more accurate description.

One of Barb’s grad students came up with what I think is a spot-on definition of our country as it presently exists.

His submission about differences was right on point. And so simple. Think of a choir: soprano, alto, tenor, bass. All working individually with different notes but, together, working pluralistically.

Sort of “separate but equal.” In the classroom. As a country.