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Historian Annette Gordon-Reed: The Culture Wars, Juneteenth, and 1/6

Credit: Tony Rinaldo Photography

Nationally renowned American historian Annette Gordon-Reed has been everywhere this past year speaking out on history and the culture wars. Actually she has not been anywhere except for her home in New York City.  It just seems that way because during the COVID pandemic she has been everywhere virtually without having to leave home. That also means I have had the opportunity to hear her virtually without having to leave home either (and read her as well).

This blog is dedicated to highlighting a year of Gordon-Reed. I do not claim to have watched all her performances, read all her articles, or articles about her, but there are enough examples to provide a good insight into the thinking of one of America’s foremost historians discussing some of the hot-button cultural war topics of the times. To include all her performances would make for a very long blog.

Spoiler alert: Annette Gordon- Reed speaks normal.

July 2, 2020: Erasing History or Making History? Race, Racism, and the American Memorial Landscape 

The AHA executive director James Grossman hosted David W. Blight, Yale University, and Annette Gordon-Reed, Harvard University. The interview is available online.

In this blog, I will focus on the comments of Gordon-Reed and given the space limitations will not be able to cover everything. One notes that the interview occurred shortly after the murder of George Floyd.

She commented that the culture war fight over monuments shifts attention from economic and social concerns. While that is true, symbolic acts are important, too. For example, the toppling of the statue of King George III in lower Manhattan after the signing of the Declaration of Independence was not simply a mere “symbolic” act. The challenge is to use the symbolic to further the other issues and not diminish them.

Gordon-Reed took great issue with the lumping together of the founders of the United States of America and the founders of the Confederacy. The founding documents of the Confederacy typically are overlooked compared to the military exploits of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. Although the names of two political entities are similar and both share the American Revolution in common, the values expressed in the two sets of founding documents are not the same.

One could go one step further than she did. If England had ever freed the colonies on its own initiative as it later did Canada, it is quite possible that it would have divided the colonies into multiple nations. Without the shared experience of the American Revolution and leadership of George Washington, little held the 13 colonies together in 1776 beyond the previous allegiance to England. The Confederate Constitution provides us with a glimpse of how the South might have been governed as an independent country right from the start if there had not been a United States.

She considers July 4, 1776, to be the birthday of the country. She said there was nothing inevitable from the arrival of the English in 1607 in Virginia to the Declaration of Independence in 1776. She adds that 1776 also unleashed the anti-slavery movement (although it took until Juneteenth for it be fulfilled nationally). Although she did participate in The New York Times 1619 Project, her comments indicate she does not support replacing 1776 with 1619.

On the subject of memorials, monuments, and flags, Gordon-Reed said we need to have this kind of discussions [referring to the vote in Mississippi on changing the state flag] because people do terrible things. She opposes taking down monuments outside the law but supports the Jeffersonian idea of having periodic discussions about the monuments we do have. For the statue of Teddy Roosevelt at the American Museum of Natural History, she favors the removal the two people on his side due to the impact on children who see it. Personally, I favor adding a (white) Rough Rider of the same size and musculature as those two.

October 29, 2020: Jefferson: Then and Now (Massachusetts Historical Society)

The reputations of all of the founders have changed dramatically over the course of American history, none more than that of Thomas Jefferson. Historians Annette Gordon-Reed, Harvard University, and Peter Onuf, University of Virginia, will discuss the implications of recent political and social developments for our image of the slave-owning author of the Declaration of Independence, emphasizing the importance of situating Jefferson in his own historical context for a better understanding of the history and future prospects of democracy in America. Online here.

Sometimes, Gordon-Reed really tells it like is us with no sugarcoating. For example, there could not have a United States of America without slave states – get over it. This observation may be too real for people who prefer two-dimensional history. She comments that in the real world, Jefferson didn’t know what to do about slavery. He had faith in science and the enlightenment. Change would continue. We had defeated the most powerful nation on earth and there was an optimism that good things would happen as time went on. The idea of infinite possibilities seems naïve today but not then – the Founders thought things could become better.

One telling comment rings especially true: we need to believe in a shared past.

Gordon-Reed, as a biographer, tends to think of Thomas Jefferson as a person and not a cliché. He was both a slave-owner and author of the Declaration of Independence. Both aspects are part of who he was an individual human being. She suggests we think of him as a complex person who wanted to make a mark in the world and did.

Gordon-Reed adds a personal note on her attraction to Jefferson.  She became Jefferson fan in school. She learned that life and people are not simple. Jefferson had to have had a curious mind and that appealed to her. Yes historical researched shows people are flawed people but that does not eliminate the human need for heroes. We can recognize the importance of people and commemorate them without the adoration. She predicts that if we can revive a civic sense of democracy, then Jefferson will be an important figure.

She considers patriotism to mean being critical and telling the truth. After all, you can love your children without believing everything they do is right.

May 4, 2021: Black America’s Neglected Origin Stories (Atlantic, online, print June issue)

She begins her article with the revelation that she took Texas history in the fourth and seventh grades. I wonder how many states teach state history even once. In a book review on her new book, On Juneteenth, University of Texas Professor H. W Brands notes that the 7th grade teaching of Texas history to Texans occurs at the same age Catholic children are confirmed and Jewish kids are bar- and bat-mitzvahed (NYT May 9, 2021).

In those grades, she learned about the period of Spanish exploration in Texas. In particular, she recalls “stray references to a man of African descent—a ‘Negro’ named Estebanico—who travelled throughout Texas. She calls him “one of the first people of African descent to enter the historical record in the Americas.” Estebanico’s facilities with languages garners additional attention leading to more generalized comments about Africans as language-learners in American history. She notes that the 1520s is roughly a century earlier than when the most popular stories date the arrival of Africans. Gordon-Reed devotes a paragraph to observing the Virginia origin story [meaning 1619] leaves out this earlier time.

Next she turns to the origin stories of Jamestown in 1607 and Plymouth in 1620. She recognizes the importance of origin stories for individuals, groups, and nations. While these two stories include interactions with the local people, she laments the absence of Africans in either one. Gordon-Reed suggests St. Augustine, Florida, beginning in 1565, to be added to the mix.

Her next point is more crucial. In her studies of American history, the British and its colonies tend to be privileged in the narrative. Spain, France, and the Dutch tend to be historical footnotes, ignored or minimized. England was the winner in all these relationships. The implication of Gordon-Reed’s observations is that beside the traditional issue of the role of Africans in American history, there is separate issue of the privileging of English or Anglo history in American history. I would refine that further to privileging the New-England-Massachusetts-Harvard perspective based on where these histories were written. White people from New York to the Confederates can be shortchanged in these histories as well.

May 9, 2021: Texas on Her Mind (NYT)

In the aforementioned book review, Brands makes a telling point about her. He cites the story she would have learned about Cynthia Ann Parker. This staple of the 7th grade class tells of “a white girl stolen by Comanches on the Texas frontier and adopted into the tribe. She bore a son, Quannah, who became the last great warrior of the Comanches.”  He quotes Gordon-Reed realizing “that so many wrong things were packed into this one narrative.” Such as the Comanches “defending from the whites … land they had seized from other Indians. She discovered that Indians held slaves, with some [of them] for this reason siding with the Confederacy during the Civil War.” Kidnapping girls to make them brides also offended her.

I would comment that for Gordon-Reed, the curious individual growing up in this milieu in Texas of Africans, Comanches, Confederates, Indians, Spanish, and (white) Texans helped prepare her to tackle a subject like Thomas Jefferson. She has the perceptive ability to see beyond the two-dimensional stereotypes. She was blessed with encountering to many of them they could not all be true.

June 18, 2021 On Juneteenth — A Virtual Discussion with Annette Gordon-Reed (American Philosophical Society)

Her new book, On Juneteenth, combines history and family memoir of her life in Texas. As a child, Juneteenth was a fun day of drinking soda pop to excess, fire crackers, visiting family and friends like July 4 is a national holiday. Gordon-Reed identifies family as the essence of the holiday and separation of family as enslavement.

Given all the current fuss about the Alamo and slavery, she comments that it is impossible to teach Texas history and the Alamo without including slavery. The Texas Constitution differs from the U.S. Constitution in that it is explicit about slavery and racism. Mexico had outlawed slavery. The Texas slaveholders wanted to be part of the Cotton Kingdom with slavery and not Mexico without it. Mexico’s desire for a buffer with the Comanche often is overlooked as well.

Slavery in Texas predates slavery in Virginia. It began in the 1500s (1528) with Spain. The story was not one of plantation but exploration. One African even reached the Pacific as one of four survivors.  Gordon-Reed wonders what the impact would be if these Spanish/African memories were added to America’s origin story that didn’t privilege the English and Virginia. She wants such an adjustment to be considered.

July 12, 2021: Jan. 6 was a “turning point” in American history

 Interview by Chauncey DeVega, Salon

Gordon-Reed sees January 6 as “potentially a turning point in the country’s history….The whole concept of democracy and the republic are at stake. Confederates have not abandoned the “Lost Cause.” The defenders of Confederate statues have not repudiated that past. They have not changed.

Strangely enough, the Confederates actually seem to have won the cultural battle over the Civil War. When Gordon-Reed was growing up in Texas, she only occasionally saw a Confederate flag. Now she sees them more than she ever had in her entire childhood. In the constant battle for power, she points to the plantation weddings as an example of how white people today can block out the real meaning of plantations in American history. She might have added that to some extent that has been going since the book and the movie Gone with the Wind in the 1930s  Just because people admire the chivalry, nostalgia, and romantic setting of a medieval castle does not mean people want to live in the Middle Ages.

July 4, 2021: Between Juneteenth and the Fourth of July (NYT)

Let me conclude this overview with her own words:

Almost as soon as they were published, Jefferson’s soaring words in the Declaration’s preamble took on particular meaning to African Americans: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”,,, Every major Black leader or commentator on Black life in the United States, from the 18th century until today, has used the Declaration to analyze and critique the status of Black Americans.

What does all this mean as the Congressional investigation of 1/6 is set to begin? Gordon-Reed is right to point out the importance, I would say necessity, of having a shared story for the country. Obviously we do not have one. The January 6 Commission will show for the record that we live in two separate countries making little pretense that we are united. Whether or not we can create that shared narrative by July 4, 2026, is highly problematical. But if the history organizations want to contribute to that effort, then Annette Gordon-Reed would be an excellent choice to spearhead that effort.

[F]ortunately, the Declaration does not belong solely to historians. Like all good writing, the words took on a meaning outside the context in which they were written.

The notion of equality referred to in the Declaration has become an animating principle in American life. Indeed Jefferson, by the end of his life, understood that his words on the subject had taken on a larger meaning. They even influenced Gen. Gordon Granger and, thus, played a role in Juneteenth….

It may be hard for some to do this in our fractious times, but both holidays should be used to reflect upon the common value that Juneteenth and the Fourth have come to express: the recognition of the equal humanity and dignity of people the world over.

Will the Constitutional Republic Survive America’s Third Civil War?

For want of wearing a mask, the presidency was lost. (https://nailstip.blogspot.com/2019/08/for-want-of-horseshoe-nail.html)

The fate of the constitutional republic of the United States of America remains unknown. Will it survive to celebrate its 250th anniversary? Will it dissolve into its constituent parts? Will it simply muddle along under constant strain because the alternative is too scary?

No one knows the answer to these questions. Before beginning a series of history blogs on the subject, I would like to note how easy it would have been for the constitutional republic already to have ended. A lot of things had to work out for us to get even this far and anyone one of them could have turned out differently.

THERE COULD HAVE BEEN A BIGGER TURNOUT ON 1/6

Approximately 8000 people showed up on January 6, not all of them armed. When I first wrote Seven Days in January: This Time It Is Not a Movie on January 3, I asked what would happen if different combinations of heavily-armed right wing militias had stormed the Capitol. I wondered if there were sufficient ground forces to stop them. Now we know. Even with the lower number of insurrectionists the defensive forces were inadequate to do the job.

1. Why weren’t there adequate forces to defend the Capitol?
2. Why was the turnout for the insurrection so low?
3. Despite the low numbers, what would the response have been if Mike Pence had been hanged and Nancy Pelosi had been killed?

SUPPOSE THE TRUMPICANS HAD BEEN AS WELL ORGANIZED AS THE WOKE

The Woke were prepared for the post-election attempt by the Trumpicans to steal the election; the Trumpicans were not. The Woke correctly anticipated the Trumpican attempt to steal the election. They had planning sessions as to what to do. More importantly, they had planning sessions on what not to do: No cries to “Defund the Police.” No toppling of statues. No burning of flags. They conducted training sessions. They planned for contingencies. They coordinated. They vowed not to provide Trumpicans with the slogans and photo-ops that would undermine their cause. They were organized, disciplined, ready and successful.

By contrast, the Trumpican side was true to their leader. He bought a lifetime of incompetence and ineptitude to managing his post-election attempt to steal the election. He was not prepared at all. He had no planning sessions. He developed no strategies. He organized nothing. When your legal effort is being led by Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, you know you have a weak case. Everything was ad hoc, impulsive, on the fly. The DOJ wasn’t ready; in the end a nobody from left field attempted to stage a coup within the department that went nowhere. In the end the corporations that were being accused of criminal activity based on wishful thinking decided to strike back through legal action.

The planning for the insurrection itself consisted of a call to show up, attend a rally, and walk to the Capitol – it will be wild. There was no planning about what the people should do once they got inside the Capitol. As Mary Trump said about her uncle, a child in the body of an adult with the emotional maturity of a three-year old, he “enjoyed every second…He is a physical coward but he’s perfectly happy when other people commit violence on his behalf.” Even the rightwing groups mocked the effort for being unorganized and inadequately planned. Once inside, the insurrectionists were busy taking selfies and souvenirs. Skilled revolutionaries they were not.

1. Suppose next time the insurrection leader is an adult?
2. Suppose next time the insurrectionists turn out in force and do have a plan?
3. Suppose next time the Woke aren’t as well organized and prepared to stop the steal?

WHAT IF THE CORONAVIRUS HAD OCCURRED EARLIER IN HIS TERM?  

On numerous occasions during the pandemic, various people in the administration have made fools of themselves for their ineptitude, incompetence, and ignorance. They did not understand the science nor did they want do. One of the questions historians will ask, if they aren’t already, is why did the eventual loser throw away the opportunity to be a winner.

1. Imagine if he had worn a mask.
2. Imagine if had pretended to be sympathetic.
3. Imagine if he had put Mike Pence in charge.

Of course, he couldn’t change who he was even though it cost him the election. He simply was too simple-minded, narcissistic and lacking in mental necessities to transform the virus into a leadership challenge as a wartime president. Instead all he cared about was the Dow Jones and once that crisis was solved he lost interest.

But if the virus had struck earlier and if the vaccine had been ready earlier and if the vaccine had been distributed earlier and America was looking back on the virus on election day the way China is, he would have been re-elected. He will never understand that.

WHAT IF THE DEMOCRATS HAD NOT NOMINATED JOE BIDEN?

While 7 million votes is a lot numerically, in percentage terms, it is not that great. A small shift of votes in Georgia, Arizona, Wisconsin, and one congressional district and there would have been no need to try to steal the election. All things considered, that is not a lot of votes. It also shows how thin the Democratic bench is and how Democrats may need Biden to run again in 2024 to prevent a Trumpican victory.

Our next presidential election is the bicentennial of the election of 1824. That presidential election was one of the ugliest in American history. There were five candidates. American was transitioning from the First Party system of Federalists and Anti-Federalists/Republicans of Adams and Jefferson to the Second Party system of Whigs and Democrats with Clay/Webster and Jackson. I first wrote about it in September 2016 The Presidential Election of 1824: Lessons for Today and tried to resume the discussion in December 2020 Biden and Cuomo: The End of an Era. In that blog I wrote about the Diversity Party and the Democratic Party as two of the parties. The question was how long the two factions could remain united in one party. The answer is still unknown but I think it is safe to say both groups understand the stakes if they don’t.

In that blog, I deferred writing about the corresponding division of the other party between the Republicans and the Trumpicans. In a little more than a month since then, that division has become obvious to everyone. The actions of the state parties such as in Arizona and really-off-the-rails Oregon, the votes in the House on the electors and the impeachment, the vote in the Senate on constitutionality of the impeachment all show that there is no civil war in the Republican Party. The Trumpicans have won. The Republicans are retiring from the battlefield. The Lincoln Project Republicans aren’t welcome anymore and they know it. There is no place for them.

Mitch McConnell is four years too late to battle to save the Republican Party from the Trumpicans. He got his tax cut to help rich people get richer and he got his judges. If the price is the destruction of the Republican Party for the Trumpican Party, then he will have to decide if it was worth it. The people who need to set up a third party are the Republicans and not the Trumpicans. There is no Republican Party left to take back.

That is why the fate of the constitutional republic remains unknown and precarious. The United States of America now has one national party that is dedicated not to the rule of law under the Constitution but to the wishes of one immature individual with no conscience, no ethics, and no morals. For now at least, he is in complete control of his party. The vaunted Biden working relationships with members across the aisle means nothing. Those are the Republicans on their way out. He has no Senate experience with Trumpicans. He has no House experience with Trumpicans. They do not consider him legitimate.

The Democrats still control the House…by a little and the in-power Party tends to lose seats in the non-Presidential election. The Democrats barely control the Senate but there still are some Republicans left there so some legislation may be possible. The Democrats have no margin for error. The continued existence of the United States of America as a constitutional republic depends on them not making one.

Ameristan: Did He Bring the War Home?

He Built a Wall

America’s Third Civil War is not a new topic. Typically, people have spoken a “culture wars” which sounds less violent than “civil war.” But underneath the more refined talk of a difference in culture or values was the threat of violence. That violence spilled out into the open on January 6, 2021. Now people are wondering if that was a one-time event or whether it signaled the elevation of a verbal conflict to a physical one: are we at Defcon OMG!?

The Third Civil War: A Look Back

America’s Third Civil War (The Atlantic)

In December, 2019, The Atlantic magazine cover proclaimed the need to act to prevent the culture wars from becoming violent civil war. In December 2020, I decided to do an anniversary examination of the articles in that issue. The goal was to compare what the writers thought back then with what had actually happened since their articles were written.

I did manage to write a couple of blogs that did just that. The blogs were

America’s Third Civil War: An Update

 The Texas Secession: Legally Dividing America

I thought I would be able to proceed in a nice methodical and leisurely manner through the magazine reviewing what people had written. Little did I know that the President of the United States would launch a “Steal the Election” campaign to undermine American democracy. Little did I know how far he would go to prevent the country from being able to celebrate its 250th anniversary because it no longer existed as a constitutional republic. As a result, I had to recalibrate. Perhaps I will resume this retrospective after January 20, 2021, depending on what happens.

 

New York Times Magazine, November 10, 2019, by Paul Sahre

  AMERICA’S THIRD CIVIL WAR

My first foray into America’s Third Civil War occurred during a battle for a Supreme Court appointment

America’s Third Civil War: Kava-Noes versus Kava-Yeses (10/19/18)

After writing about the first civil war in the American Revolution and the second civil war in the Civil War, I turned to the third one.

The third civil is different from the previous two.

It may be said to have begun in the 1960s. At that time, baby boomer males could be drafted into a war they did not want to fight and baby boomer females could have babies they did not want to have.

It may be said to have begun on August 17, 1992, when Pat Buchanan delivered his “Culture War” speech to the Republican National Convention.

It may be said to have begun in 2008 with Sarah Palin’s rally cry “to take back the country.”

Regardless of the preliminaries, history may well record that with the contentious and close vote on October 6, 2018, of 50-48 between Kava-Yeses and Kava-Noes the battle was fully engaged. There is no turning back now. When Charles Blow writes an op-ed in the New York Times that “Liberals, This Is War,” he fails to recognize that for conservatives it has been war for decades and appointing a fifth Republican legislator to the Supreme Court is a long overdue victory.

As with America’s first civil war, America’s third civil war will be intensely divisive at the local level. People who have known each other for years as best friends for life suddenly will morph into combatants. The family Thanksgiving meal will become a battleground. While it will be illegal for Kava-Noes and Kava-Yeses to marry, there is always the possibility that some of the guests will be from opposite sides of the divide. Any social engagement will run the risk of degenerating into a brawl. Hosts and hostesses will be obligated to do due diligence to ensure a peaceful event. College admission officers will need to scrutinize applicants carefully to maintain the purity of the campus. God forbid people from different sides should be assigned as roommates!  In short, people will constantly have to be on guard to make sure they know when it is safe to speak….

[W]e have a president who feasts on divisiveness. There will be no “come let us reason together” in this administration. Far from it. Instead he will stoke the flames of hatred and rejoice in the dividing of America. Never have We the People had a president who is so antagonistic to the very idea of We the People. Never have We the People had a president who is so willing, eager, and ready to campaign on behalf of hatred. Never have We the People had a president who is so antagonistic to the very goal of e pluribus unum, a motto that has been abandoned by both national political parties and mocked by our president. But there should not be any surprise that our president promotes the division of the country. What else would you expect from Putin’s poodle?

The Third Civil War (New York Times Magazine)

In general terms, the preview has come true. The Senate vote on the judicial appointment did not prove to be the breaking point nor did the judicial appointment two years later just before the presidential election. I was still writing from a cultural wars perspective and not a physical war with deaths from violence. I expected the presidential election to be the point of no return.

In my second blog on America’s Third Civil War (7/23/19), I quoted Nancy Pelosi saying:

This coming election, it is really an election that the fate of this country is riding on. This presidency is an existential threat to our democracy and our country as we know it.

Turns out she was exactly right. During the second impeachment she almost said the same words only now the election was in the past tense. Still the conflict was verbal. Then it changed.

JANUARY 6, 2021

Now the war has turned violent. My two political thriller blogs Seven Days in January: This Time It Is Not a Movie and Seven Days in January: Impeached Again were written immediately before and after the failed insurrection attempt. What happens now?

For the domestic trumperists, there are consequences to their actions.

1. They face the prospect of prison time.
2. They face mounting and expensive legal bills.
3. They may have lost their job.
4. They may rethink what it means to assault the government in the real world as opposed to at a political rally or in online chatter.

On the other hand, for many who participated in the attack or watched it, it was victory that produced a natural high. That intoxication may embolden them to try again.

For the country, there are consequences just as there were after 9/11. The post-9/11 changes have mostly been confined to airports where people now take security inspections for granted. Otherwise, life pretty much has returned to normal. This time may be different.

1. The Capitol is now in the Green Zone – How long will that last? What will it mean to tourists and school trips to see the nation’s capital in a permanent shutdown due to terrorist threat?

2. How many more Green Zones will be needed? Will even Alabama and South Dakota need to protect themselves? A lot of the chatter may turn out to be hype. Think of the army of 50,000 poll watchers that was supposed to be raised on November 3. Maybe the expected assaults will fizzle out.

3. Will there be lone wolves and soft targets? – After 9/11 there was a lot of attention/discussion on soft targets. The veterans with Iraq and Afghanistan experiences are well-trained in such tactics. There is plenty of information on the web about how prepare a bomb and the tactics to be used to deploy it to maximize effect. Will mentally-ill young males switch from attacking schools to attacking other locations that provide more vulnerable targets?

4. Who can you trust? – The supporters of the insurrection can be in Congress, the Capitol Police, the National Guard, the local police, the military, and the Secret Service. They could be your neighbors, your co-workers, and even members of your friendly local historical society. How do you know?

At this point it is too early to tell what will happen. The people who participated in the insurrection and who have been arrested are claiming they were following orders, answering the call of their President, and requesting pardons. Such pardons would be an open admission that the President really is an “existential threat to our democracy and our country as we know it” just as Pelosi said and the second impeachment claims.

The next round in the war will be the pardons issued on the final full day of his presidency. The parting gesture of the Loser undoubtedly will unleash another round of at least verbal conflict. It also may be seen as throwing the insurrectionists under the bus if they are excluded.

January 6, 2021 transformed the culture war into a civil war. It’s become a double civil war. It is a war between the Trumpicans and the Woke for control of the country. But it also is a war between the Trumpicans and the Republicans for the control of a political party. No one knows how either war will turnout. What can be said, is that it won’t end on January 20, 2021 and it will prove more dangerous to the future of this country than COVID-19 has been.

Seven Days in January: Impeached Again

Freedom of Speech for Real Americans and Patriots

It was only 10 days ago when I wrote a blog on Seven Days in January: This Time It Is Not a Movie. Little did I know what would happen just four days later on January 6 or what would happen afterwards. Now seven days later history will be made with the second impeachment of single President. Time moves very quickly now. What you write can be obsolete before you are done [Mitch McConnell believes impeaching Trump will help! Mitch McConnell: Howard Baker (Time to Go) vs Stay the Course (Go Down with the Ship) June 8, 2020]. Has hell frozen over? Has he seen the light?

There are issues to be considered which I didn’t address in my blog about political thrillers from the early 1960s and the world today.

PRESIDENTIAL SUCCESSION

There has been a lot of discussion about the 25th Amendment but very little about Presidential succession. The Vice President is necessary to activate the removal process. The Vice President also was a target of the insurrection. The phrase “Hang Mike Pence” was heard and a functioning gallows had been constructed as if its builders were prepared to use it. WHAT HAPPENS TO THE 25TH AMENDMENT IF THERE IS NO VICE PRESIDENT?

Next in line for Presidential succession is the Speaker of the House. However the Speaker is not next in line to fill a Vice President opening. There is a process of selection and confirmation involving the President and the Congress to fill that slot. Suppose the President doesn’t name anyone to fill the position in case the Trump insurrectionists had hanged Mike Pence? What then?

Assuming the Vice President had survived the attempted coup, which he did, then what? Let’s say what is left of the Cabinet had approved the initiative. That action then is to be transmitted to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives according to the Amendment. Suppose they are dead? What does the Vice President do?

Political thrillers are out of vogue now. Perhaps the recent events will cause a revival. It is easy to see now in an emergency situation how inadequate the 25th Amendment is. With all its checks and balances built into the text the process could drag on for weeks. That doesn’t cut it in during an insurrection.

True, it never occurred to the authors and ratifiers of the 25th Amendment that one day a President of the United States would foster an insurrection to remain in power. Now we know better. The Amendment needs to be amended.

LOSS OF CONTROL

In all the political thrillers, the instigator or brains behind the action is in charge. That person knows what is going on and is in command of the actors. On December 7 and 9/11, the chain of command was established and maintained. The people did what they were supposed to do according to the plan. That is what was expected.

In the Trump Insurrection, the instigator brought all his shortcomings and inadequacies to the event. That doomed it to failure. The person with no management, organization, or planning skills in his business career and in the coronavirus pandemic, demonstrated the same shortcomings on January 6….for which we should be grateful. The simple-minded immature child President lacks the mental necessities or cognitive skills to effectively organize an insurrection. All the weenie in-chief could do was light a match, pour oil on the fire, and then vanish to go watch it on TV. Next to taking away his Twitter account, imagine taking away his TV!

He had no idea what the insurrectionists would actually do. It was not a 12/7, 9/11, or political thriller situation. He had no control over the people acting in his name. If his defense lawyers are smart they should plead he has the brains of a child and should be tried in juvenile court.

MY PEOPLE

Who are the “people” the twice-impeached President always refers to? Remember in the Georgia telephone call how he talked about “people” who would be angry. Then there really were the “people” who supported the telephone call – it proved he was fighting for them and hadn’t given up. Now again we hear about the “people” who would be very angry if he was penalized for his actions on January 6. After all, didn’t he give a “perfect” speech, an appropriate speech, just like his “perfect” call on his failed extortion attempt that led to his first impeachment?

I first became aware of these “people” after the 2016 election. One of the stock phrases Hannity used to attack those who criticized the legitimacy of the election was along the lines of he had been “duly elected by 63 million people.” He never mentioned the 66 million who had voted for the Democratic candidate. Why not? It would seem because those “people” aren’t “real people” and part of We the People. The 63 million who voted for the correct candidate are the Real Americans, not those other people.

Remember, Real Americans don’t get the coronavirus and die from it; “those” people do.

The exact same sequence is being played out today. All you hear about on Foxhub is the 75 million (or more accurately 74 million) who voted for the Sore Loser. Look at the increase over the 2016 vote total of 63 million! Somehow the 81 million who voted for the Democratic candidate are ignored. The 3 million fraudulent votes in 2016 became 5 million fraudulent votes when he needed more to overcome his growing gap by at least one vote. In 2020, it became over 7 million rigged votes. Over 7 million, because he really won by a landslide. Just as the 66 million in 2016 and the 81 million in 2020 don’t exist on Foxhub, so they don’t exist in the mind of the twice-impeached President. When he refers to “people,” he means only his people, the Real Americans. Confederates are Real Americans and patriots in Trump’s universe.

Such thinking also applies to Trumpicans. They feel that they have been disenfranchised by people who are not Real Americans. What are they to do they asked at the insurrection?

ENDGAME

The Capitol is our goal. Everything else is a distraction. Every corrupt member of Congress locked in one room and surrounded by real Americans is an opportunity that will never present itself again.

Did that include Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, and all the other Trumpican traitors who voted to reverse the election? If the insurrectionists had confronted the Representatives and Senators would they simply have open fired on all of them?

At the end of the day, you mark my word, we will plant our flag on the desk of Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. And Donald J. Trump if it boils down to it.

What flag is that? The American flag or the Trump flag? Once the forces of rebellion were unleashed, they were beyond the control of the twice-impeached President gleefully watching the mayhem on TV. He was more upset about losing the PGA Championship than he was about risking the lives of 536 elected officials and their staff.

And suppose they had disrupted the vote, what would have changed? Nothing. No matter what happened on January 6, Joe Biden would still become President on January 20. Did they know that?

So now there are 50 additional targets besides the Capitol. The story is not yet over. It will not end with the departure of the twice-impeached President. At this point, the ending to this political thriller in the real world remains unknown. On seven-day period stretched from insurrection to impeachment. The week will take us to inauguration. Who knows what will happen then? How many people can the FBI round up before they are pardoned?

There is one thought expressed at the insurrection which deserves attention. It was a call by one of the participants for exactly that:

We are here. See us! Notice us! Pay attention!”

If Joe Biden wants to be a unity President that is exactly what he has to do. Painful as that might be, he can’t unify the country unless he does pay attention to the people who oppose him. After all, Trumpicans still are Americans.

January 6, 2021: Blacks, Jews, and the American Dream

January 6, 2021 may join December 7 and 9/11 as dates that will live in infamy in American history. Right now it is too early to tell. Many Americans already don’t know those earlier dates anyway. So far January 6 is like the other two in that it was a one-time attack on America. That could change on January 20 or in scattered state capitols throughout the country. It also differs in that it was an attack on America led by the American President and the attackers themselves were American and not foreign. Now the President is being impeached for a second time and the attackers are being arrested as may the current President may be once he loses his immunity.

But January 6, 2021, is an historic date for other reasons as well. It was a date when the deaths from the coronavirus exceeded 4000, a milestone. It also was the date the results of two Senate elections on January 5, 2021, in Georgia became known. That event would have been front-page above-the fold-news in other times. It was big news in the morning but by the afternoon it had become eclipsed. This blog is dedicated to those elections.

HIDDEN FIGURES

The movie “Hidden Figures” already has been the subject of blogs (Hidden Figures, The Right Stuff and the Coronavirus: Who Will Tell the Story?, April 30, 2020 and Negroes and the American Dream: Hidden Figures, Open Dreams, March 11, 2018). It is regrettable that so many of the movie’s great moments turned out not to be literally true The Kevin Costner character was not a historically-real person. One powerful scene in which he did not participate also was not literally true although it was symbolically true.

Karl Zielinski: Mary, a person with an engineer’s mind should be an engineer. You can’t be a computer the rest of your life.

Mary Jackson: Mr. Zielinski, I’m a negro woman. I’m not gonna entertain the impossible.

Karl Zielinski: And I’m a Polish Jew whose parents died in a Nazi prison camp. Now I’m standing beneath a spaceship that’s going to carry an astronaut to the stars. I think we can say we are living the impossible. Let me ask you, if you were a white male, would you wish to be an engineer?

Mary Jackson: I wouldn’t have to. I’d already be one.

The Polish Jew who encourages her in the movie is fictional, but apparently the real life NASA engineer Kazimierz Czarnecki did encourage her to pursue advanced training and became her longtime mentor.

So here we have this episode of a “negro woman” and a “Polish Jew” exemplifying the American Dream in a positive and optimistic setting. Life as it should be.

GEORGIA SENATE ELECTIONS

Jon Ossoff (L) and Raphael Warnock (R) bump elbows on stage during a rally with US President-elect Joe Biden outside Center Parc Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia, on January 4, 2021. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

The Georgia Senate elections demonstrate the exact same upbeat message as the movie scene. While Ossoff is not a Polish Jew (Russian/Lithuanian descent), the parallel is close enough.

The importance of the Georgia Senate elections transcends the election itself. If either candidate had won individually, the election would have been historic for Georgia. The unusual circumstance of a having two simultaneous Senate elections only added to the historical significance.

The national implications magnify the historic importance of the elections. The very same person who instigated the insurrection on January 6 was the person who affected the results of the Georgia Senate elections to his own detriment. He had sought to “find” votes which would have made him the winner of the state in the presidential election. He had sought to disqualify votes which would have had the same effect. The U.S. District Attorney would not comply with the request to do the latter and is now gone from his job. The Georgian Secretary of State did not comply with the request for the former. He still has his job. But he has had to spend some time in hiding and has been threatened over his re-election prospects. The Republican Governor similarly has been threatened. Undoubtedly these assaults within the Republican Party along with the claim that the voting system was rigged and could not be trusted contributed to the Democratic victories.

As a result of his self-inflicted wound, the Democrats now have control of the Senate. These two votes are not sufficient to ensure that the impeached instigator of the January 6 insurrection will be removed from office and prohibited from running in 2024. In fact, by the time the Senate votes to remove him from office, he already will be out of office and quite possibly facing criminal charges. Still, it will be quite an introduction to the Senate for the two Georgians.

BLACKS, JEWS, AND THE JANUARY 6 INSURRECTION

At first glance, one would have expected that the “Stop the Steal” rally would focus on the presidential election. Certainly the actions to reverse the results by having the electors from various states be disqualified were the major focus. However, the participants communicated interests that were not directly connected to the election. Instead they relate to concerns that predate even the 2016 election.

 

 

 

 

 

These images involve longstanding hatreds in the United States that will not disappear January 20, 2021.

One inadvertent benefit from the insurrection is that it flushed people out of the woodwork. Instead of white racists and anti-Semites restricting themselves to various websites, they appeared in open in the light of day clothed in their hatreds. Not only did they appear in public, they took selfies, posed for pictures, sent texts and emails and otherwise broadcasted their white racism and anti-Semitism. At first, it may have seemed like a lark to them. They occupied the Capitol and took souvenirs as if they had signed up for a tourist extravaganza. Now their pictures of them in the action of committing a crime are available to law enforcement organizations across the country. The people with the Confederate flags and the concentration camp T-shirts apparently never thought through the consequences of the public display of their white racism and anti-Semitism.

In these two actions on January 6, 2021, one may see two faces of America. One embraces the future, the other is scared of it. The Warnock/Ossoff elections represent an optimistic view of America’s future. The insurrection represents a fear of it. The Democrats do not have a monopoly on that future. They do not own it. It is possible the Party of Lincoln will abandon Trump and embrace the future as well. The vote in the House of Representatives in support of his effort to steal the election and the polls show a split party. The Trumpicans support the attempted coup as a great victory to be celebrated whereas the Republicans do not. At this point, it seems unlikely that the Lincoln Republicans can regain control of their Party. In that case, one can anticipate more elections like the Georgian Senate elections and more widespread violence. In other words, both aspects of January 6, 2021 will continue for better and for worse to be on display (see my comments in Grand Ol’ Prospects: Republicans abandoning Trump lick their wounds and plan their future by Leonard Greene, The Daily News, January 10, 2021).

Seven Days in January: This Time It Is Not a Movie

What will happen after January 6, 2021?

Back in the 1960s when times were simpler, political thrillers were the rage. Two (fiction) books raised the topic of the end of the United States as we know it. These books were not about nuclear destruction like Failsafe and Dr. Strangelove, but were about homegrown threats: Americans acting to overthrow the government as Americans. The two books were:

Seven Days in May by Fletcher Knebel and Charles Bailey II (1962)
Night of Camp David by Fletcher Knebel (1965).

Seven Days in May became a “major motion picture” with Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster, a screenplay by Rod Serling, and was directed by John Frankenheimer who had just directed The Manchurian Candidate (1962). Advise and Consent also had been released in 1962. Those years really a time of political thrillers and intrigue without the violence of White House Down.

Seven Days in May was the story of an attempted military coup by a brilliant and magnetic general. It seemed realistic. The book and movie weren’t that many years after the President Harry Truman/General Douglas MacArthur confrontation. Yet in the nearly 60 years since the book, there has been no such military coup or even threat of one. The one military figure calling for one today is no-integrity Mike Flynn who is not currently on active duty. He also is not secretive about his intentions.

The military seems quite prepared to remain out of politics. It deeply resented being exploited when the Commander in-chief dominated Lafayette Park. It deeply resented being called “my generals.” And it is scared about what the immature child in the body of a man with the emotional maturity of a three-year old who has no conscience, no morals, no ethics, and at best, a very limited and simple-minded knowledge and understanding of the world situation, might do. So unlike many countries throughout the world, We the People can rest easy that the military’s loyalty is to the Constitution and not to the individual who happens to be President.

What will the military do on January 6, 2021? First, how many heavily-armed right-wing militias will heed the call of the President to assemble at the nation’s capital? Second, what will they do when they get there? In part the answer to the second question depends on the answer to the first one. It is reasonable to conclude that the more heavily-armed right-wing militia who show up, the greater the chance of violence outside the Capitol where the elected officials will vote. Will they storm the building as they did the Michigan statehouse? Will there be violence inside the Capitol? Will any elected officials be shot? At this point there is no way to know. We will have to wait and see. What we do know is that if things do get out of hand, the military still cannot intervene to restore order since the Commander in-chief who can give that order is the one behind the violence.

A “Seven Days in May” scenario is not possible.

What about Night at Camp David? In that story, a lunatic president gives into to his own paranoia and conspiratorial fantasies. All around him the adults in the room struggle to prevent him going off the rails and acting on his worst impulses. The deranged President rants about the Deep State (to use the current term) political enemies and imaginary plots against him. He continually rails against Fake News (again to use the current term). It is easy to understand why Vintage re-released the book after the 2016 election. The question the publisher promoted was “What Would Happen if the President of the U.S.A. Went Stark Raving Mad?”

The question raised was not about the President’s ineptitude and incompetence as a manager. The same shortcomings that led to his becoming a serial failure in the business world were on the full display in 2020:

1. his failure to manage the testing for the coronavirus
2. his failure to manage the vaccine distribution
3. his failure to manage the COVID relief bill beyond having a last second hissy fit.

If all he were was incompetent and inept, then we should count our blessings that he didn’t wreak more havoc then he has so far. Fortunately, he lacks the mental necessities and cognitive skills to plan and execute anything as diabolical as in a political thriller.

As it turns out, he doesn’t need to. All these political thrillers involve people who are quite secretive about their motives and actions. The storylines are about the hero who uncovers the truth. He does so despite all the obstacles placed in his way. He then must overcome the shock of believing that a president or general in the United States could do what he seemed to be doing. The hero needs to overcome his disbelief that such people in power could launch a coup.

In the real world, no such duplicity is needed. In the real world with this President, everything is out in the open and on Twitter. He wants to be President for life. He lives in an alternate universe befitting the world of an immature child trying to function in the adult world. Which is a scarier prospect – that he actually believes what he is saying about the rigged election or that he knows he lost fair and square, can’t accept it, and will do everything he can not to become a loser and be removed power? I think after weeks of saying the election was rigged, that he is 2-0, and that he won in a landslide, we should credence to the idea that both he and his followers actually do believe all the bull trump. Trumpican elected officials amazingly cite the Trumpican voter concern that the election was rigged as proof that an investigation is needed to determine whether or not the election was rigged.

Previously, it was hard to imagine an open coup openly arrived at by an incumbent President to remain in power. After all, we are not a Trumphole country, are we? However, the Trump Traitors in the House and the Senate are quite open about their attempted coup. They state their intention publicly and proudly. They have done so for the record in a suit taken to the Supreme Court. They will do so for the record on January 6 or 7 depending on when the debate ends. They do so without any qualms, hesitations, or fears that the attempt to reverse the will of the people expressed in the election will led to repercussions. They think they have nothing to lose through this coup attempt and the scary thought is that they may be right.

The political thrillers from the 1960s got in all wrong. In the real world we have an open coup attempt. How violent the attempt remains to be seen. We won’t actually know until the heavily-armed right wing militias show up January 6 and see what they do.

We also don’t know what will happen after the attempted coup fails. The traitors will remain in office without any penalty. The instigator of the failed coup will remain in office for another two weeks. For now, in his own alternate-reality mind, he can still believe the coup might work. After January 7, it will finally start to sink in that his departure from the White House really is going to happen. For the rest of his life, he will believe the lie that he really won because he needs to believe for his own mental health. But he will know finally on January 7, once and for all, that his days are numbered and the number is small. It will be time to start packing for who knows where. The countdown in days, hours, and minutes until he is gone will be displayed for him to see. The Night of Camp David is about a President who loses his mind. Somewhere between January 7 and January 20 that could happen with no adults in the room to stop him and no one to invoke in the 25th Amendment.

Note: This blog was written on Saturday prior to the criminal phone call by the President of the United States to Georgia and prior to the release of the statement from all 10 living former US defense secretaries. Obviously a followup blog is required.

White House Down: There Is No Republican Profile in Courage

This time the assault is real and led by the President

“White House Down” is a movie about a physical assault on America.

“Tantrum Trump” is about a political and social media assault on America that could become a physical assault on January 6, 2021.

“White House Down” had people who rose to the occasion and became heroes.

“Tantrum Trump” has no profiles in courage, no heroes, no Howard Bakers. The Sore Loser is acting to cement his legacy as the biggest baby in American history, a whining, weenie with no morals, no ethics, and no conscience, who has no objection to destroying the United States even without being actually on the Putin payroll.

Despite this, what’s left of the Republican Party will not act to stop him.

All the way back in October 2019, I wrote a blog Will Mike Pence Become a Profile in Courage? My conclusion then as now is NO!!!!!!!!!!! No matter what he will never invoke the 25th Amendment. He will certify the election of Joe Biden on January 6. But he will do nothing to prevent the savage chaos which will engulf the United States during the last four weeks of his term in office.

Back in June 2020, I wrote a blog Mitch McConnell: Howard Baker (Time to Go) vs Stay the Course (Go Down with the Ship). My conclusion then was that he would stay the course even if it meant going down with the ship. That did not happen on Election Day but it could happen on January 5. Still he will not rise to the occasion no matter what harm the Sore Loser inflicts on the country, the Republican Party, or the Republican Senate Majority.

Remember the talk about his creating an alternate TV network (or show)? What he is really doing is creating an alternate party. He has always been a Trumpican first, last, and only. Now he is not only unhinged, he is unleashed. He sees January 6, 2021, looming before him. He knows the Democrats will support the election of Biden. He knows the Republicans will support the election of Biden. He knows he needs to make sure the number of Republicans left in Congress are too few to override the Trumpicans. He needs Vice President Brown Nose to continue to be for him what he is to Putin.

At long last, some Republicans are finally seeing that the long-time-Democrat-and-Clinton-supporter doesn’t care about the Republican Party. It was only a vehicle which he could hijack for his own needs as he was unable to do with the Democratic Party. His exultation of the loss of Republican Mia Love in the 2018 elections was simply a prelude to what is occurring now. Tom Friedman asks “Will Trump Force Principled Conservatives to Start Their Own Party?” (NYT 12/23/20 print). His answer was, “I Hope So.” Friedman thinks at some point, “some Republicans will say ‘enough.’”  He wrote that before “Krakatoa, East of Java” on the night of 12/23. It still isn’t enough.

We are facing the extraordinary situation of a sitting President openly attacking his “own” party. He is actively undermining his own party. He is doing this now even before he leaves office and relocates to Mar-a-Lago where he can’t legally live anyway. His desire for revenge against still-Senate-Majority-Leader Mitch McConnell trumps any concern for the Georgia Senate elections. He couldn’t care less about those Republican incumbents having to explain why they supported a disgraceful bill. He couldn’t care less about those Republican incumbents having to explain why they oppose a $2000 relief check. He couldn’t care less if those Republican incumbents lose. In fact, when he had his hissy fit, he never even thought about them.

His throwing the Republicans under the bus has produced strange moments in American history. Consider the situation of his chief of staff. A lifetime ago in October, I wrote:

When Marked Down was appointed Chief of Staff, I was very happy. “Why?” you might wonder. In the House of Representatives, Marked Down was one of the fiercest Trumpicans. He was loyal to core. For him, Russia and the Ukraine were hoaxes. He attacked Fake News. He was one of the chief Flying Monkeys defending the Wicked Witch of the White House from any and all witch hunters in any and all witch hunts.

Now he is in meetings with criminals, traitors, and nutcases talking about martial law. If there is one thing Confederates prize above all else it’s the sending of Federal troops into states to seize stuff. It’s like a dream come true for every Confederate and right-wing militia.

Speaking of right-wing militia’s, their moment of truth will soon be upon us. They have been called to action. They have been called to Washington, DC. They have been called to “Stop the Steal.” Back in September, I wrote the blog Will the Militias March on Washington November 4? Obviously I was wrong on the date. I was not thinking about January 6 or all the post-election actions which have transpired. So while the question raised has been answered in an immediate sense, the true issue raised in the blog about the actions the private militias will take has not.

What will they do when all the legal maneuvering comes to an end? For months they incessantly heard about a rigged election. They have heard about the end of the world as they know it if their Lord and Savior, the Chosen One, Blessed Be his Name, is removed from office. They have seen it on Twitter. They have seen it on Foxhub and other stations.  Now the moment of truth has arrived. The clarion call of Sarah Palin to take back the country rings true. Now is the moment. Now is time to act. If not now, when?

Suppose a few hundred armed militia decide to march on Washington. What will the response be?

Suppose a few thousand armed militia decide to march on Washington. What will the response be?

Suppose 250,000 armed militia with motorcycles and trailers packed with provisions pour forth in caravans from around the country and descend on Washington as they did in South Dakota. What will the response be?

Suppose there is a million man march in support of the one person who can save the country. What will the response be?

I have no idea. Who even has the authority to stop an insurrection led by the Commander in Chief? The local police forces could be overwhelmed. Who could stop the private militias from entering the Capitol? The previous actions in the Michigan statehouse are small-scale compared to what potentially could occur. I don’t even begin to know how you map out a defense against caravans of heavily armed private militias descending on Washington especially if they are violating no laws in traveling there. Oh, you say, they don’t have a parade permit as if that would stop thousands of people bent on saving their Savior.

At this point, no one knows what will happen. We don’t know how many will show up?  We don’t know what the impact will be on Representatives and Senators trying to reach the Capitol amidst maybe thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands heavily armed private militias screaming “Stop the Steal! We know where you live.” There is a lot of uncertainty still with two weeks to go and four weeks to go. It’s hard to imagine the situation not getting meaner, uglier, and deadlier as the Sore Loser becomes more and more desperate, more and more unhinged, more and more unchecked since there are no profiles in courage in the Republican Party and no one will rise to the occasion.

 

P.S. Finally, there is the burning question all Americans are asking: When will Rudy get his Christmas pardon?