The electors betrayed us… Now we’re on our own

A poster at the Sat., Nov. 12, “Not My President” protest march in Manhattan. Photo by Milo Hess
Looking for solutions: Some of the thousands of post-its on the post-election “Subway Therapy” wall in the Union Square station. NYC Transit recently ordered that the sticky notes had to go, and several thousand were collected by the New-York Historical Society for its collection. Villager photo by Bob Krasner
Looking for solutions: Some of the thousands of post-its on the post-election “Subway Therapy” wall in the Union Square station. NYC Transit recently ordered that the sticky notes had to go, and several thousand were collected by the New-York Historical Society for its collection. Villager photo by Bob Krasner

BY BILL WEINBERG | As I write, the Electoral College vote is in, and the results are grimly unsurprising. Despite pressure to dump Trump in the interests of preserving democracy, only six electors nationwide went “faithless.” In Texas, two Republican electors dropped Trump — one for Ohio Governor John Kasich, one for Ron Paul. Another resigned rather than vote Trump.

Ironically, more Democratic electors dumped Hillary. In Washington State, four dropped Clinton in a moral appeal to Republican electors. They cast votes for Colin Powell and Faith Spotted Eagle, a Yankton Sioux tribal leader standing against the Keystone XL pipeline

We are on our own now. The system’s last-resort safeguard against tyranny has failed. It was never more than a shadow of a chance. The cruelty is that the most reactionary aspects of the Electoral College seem unassailable, while its potential for use in the public interest appears exhausted.

The group that emerged to advocate for the Electoral College revolt was called “Hamilton Electors.” But New York’s Alexander Hamilton, representative of the North’s urban moneyed elite,  accepted the Electoral College as a compromise with  the South’s slave-holding aristocracy. For Hamilton, the Electoral College was a break on assumption of power by a demagogue. For the slavocrats, it served to amplify the power of their rural states with small numbers of voters. (Blacks, even free ones, did not vote, of course.)

Today, the electors are incapable of meeting their responsibility to keep an actual fascist out of office. Yet, the Electoral College continues to amplify the votes of the most conservative, least diverse states — making possible the fascist’s election.

Yet, having raised this demand on the Electoral College gives progressives a moral authority to deny Trump’s legitimacy as president. We gave the last constitutional mechanism its full due. It succumbed, and we now face the prospect of a president with open contempt for fundamental constitutional rights.

The American Civil Liberties Union in its full-page open letter to Trump in The New York Times last month named his pledges of mass deportations, barring Muslims entry to the country and targeting those already here for surveillance. “These proposals are not simply un-American and wrong-headed,” the A.C.L.U. wrote. “They are unlawful and unconstitutional, and would violate the First, Fourth, Fifth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution… .”

The A.C.L.U. merely pledges to be “vigilant” every day Trump is in office, and that’s their job. But must we, even now, accept his inauguration as inevitable?

Look at what just happened in South Korea… . Weeks of relentless, massive demonstrations finally brought about the impeachment of President Park Geun-Hye on Dec. 9. Protesters continue to fill the streets, demanding she step down. Since October, hundreds of thousands across the country have repeatedly mobilized. Days before the impeachment, some 1.7 million filled downtown Seoul — in a country with a population of only 50 million. Despite scattered street clashes, the tone of the protests has been overwhelmingly peaceful, even joyous. University professors have played a leading role. The marches coincided with strikes by public-sector workers, with hospitals and transport heavily affected. The impeachment is a victory for transparency; Park is accused of conniving with a crony for illicit enrichment through abuse of government power.

Contrast the situation in the United States. In the initial shock after Trump’s election, there were around two weeks of near-daily protests in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago and other cities. Then “normalization” set in. Perhaps the false hope that the Electoral College would save us encouraged quietism —although continued street heat conceivably could have swayed a few more electors. Will exhaustion of the last constitutional safeguard reinvigorate protests?

Can we possibly regain the momentum — and dare to aspire to the degree of commitment demonstrated by the Koreans? That — demonstrably — is what it takes to get the goods.

We now have a month until the inauguration. Can we use this critical window to mobilize to prevent an actual fascist from taking office?

This evening, as the electoral votes came in, a meeting was held at The Cooper Union to announce the launching of such an effort, under the slogan “We refuse to accept a fascist America.” The initiative calls for “tens of millions” to take the streets to declare the Trump regime “illegitimate” and demand that it “not be allowed to rule.” Journalist Jeremy Scahill was the big draw, and initiators of the call include columnist Herb Boyd, veteran activist Bill Ayers and author Cornel West. 

But I was disturbed by the obvious heavy hand at the affair of the cultish sect known as the Revolutionary Communist Party. And if they don’t want to be called cultish, they can stop displaying the name and image of their “chairman” Bob Avakian on their literature tables with the same avidness that our president-elect displays his own on the side of luxury hotels.

The position of the left has been problematic in this dilemma. The same Scahill has just signed onto a separate statement demanding that the C.I.A. “show us the proof” that Russia meddled in the election. And indeed, the C.I.A.’s evidence hopefully will be made public in the upcoming congressional hearings. But the left’s denialism about Putin’s connivance with Trump is mysterious and makes it complicit with the looming fascist takeover. The talk of “McCarthyism” is absurd. There is nothing remotely communist about Russia’s current strongman — he is far closer to fascism. And he is conniving with America’s extreme right.

This Cold War-nostalgist Russophilia is all the more perverse in light of the other horrific development that has kept me in the streets over the past frigid days: the destruction of Aleppo by Putin’s warplanes. A big contingent of high school kids were among some 200 who came out in solidarity with Aleppo in Washington Square on Dec. 16. Too many “leftist” mouthpieces are echoing Putin’s propaganda that the city was “liberated” from “terrorists.”

Still, those high school kids gave me a much-needed shot of hope. Maybe — just maybe — there’s a new generation of youth coming up that can meet the challenge of defeating the Trump-Putin fascist agenda.

Tomorrow night, Tues., Dec. 20, there is a Trump Resistance Town Hall happening at the L.G.B.T. Community Center on W. 13th St. If it is interesting, I will report back. Watch this space — and go create resistance. The countdown to fascism is on.

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