Half-empty? Half-full? Neither empty nor full
The glass-half-empty perspective is that the past 12 months have stretched this democracy kind of thin. The glass-half-full perspective is that it’s still pretty strong.
Either way, the glass is neither empty nor full.
Now that the Electoral College has cast its votes, it’s past time for everyone to concede that Joe Biden won.
No doubt some of those 158 million total votes were miscounted or cast improperly, benefitting both sides. No process is perfect. But this election was neither stolen nor rigged, as President Trump has claimed.
So says Attorney General William Barr, a staunch defender and appointee of Trump’s who resigned Monday. Barr recently told the Associated Press that he had “not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.”
Barr is not alone in defending this year’s election. The Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency said the election was “the most secure in American history.” Its director, a Trump appointee, was fired by Trump after it released those findings. Georgia has counted its ballots three times, including by hand. Biden has won each time. Its Republican governor and secretary of state have had to defend themselves against personal attacks by Trump and his allies.
Fifty-nine court cases contesting the election have been decided against the president. The most high-profile case ended last week. The state of Texas – joined by Arkansas under Attorney General Leslie Rutledge along with 17 other states – sought to invalidate the votes of four states won by Biden: Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The Supreme Court refused to hear it.
The plaintiffs’ argument was that those states illegally changed the rules for voting during the pandemic. They singled out those states even though others changed their rules, including Arkansas. Gov. Asa Hutchinson told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that he was not consulted about the lawsuit and didn’t intend to sign any legal brief.
One hundred twenty-six U.S. House Republicans, including Arkansas’ Reps. Rick Crawford and Bruce Westerman, signed a brief supporting the lawsuit.
Reps. French Hill and Steve Womack did not. Both said they did not want one state intervening in another’s election. Hill told the Democrat-Gazette that he “did not want to create a precedent where California and New York can decide future elections in Arkansas.”
This was not the first time in the past 12 months that members of the party that lost a presidential election tried to use the system to rewrite the results. It seems a lifetime ago, but on Dec. 18, 2019, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives voted to impeach Trump. The Republican-controlled Senate later dismissed the charges.
The impeachment shouldn’t have happened. Such a drastic step should be reserved for “high crimes and misdemeanors” that threaten our democracy and can’t wait for the next election. “Something to do with Ukraine” did not rise to that level.
The glass-half-full perspective is that all of this has been done legally and peacefully and by following the rules. Trump has not activated any troops to maintain power. He’s suing, which he’s entitled to do. Impeachment was a process that ended with him still in office.
Unfortunately, even an optimist must concede the glass is only half full. Lasting damage is being done to our democracy. The rules depend on Americans having trust in the system. Bad things happen when that trust is lost, particularly when it’s deliberately undermined.
Even though the Electoral College has voted, procedural processes remain. Congress still must count the votes on Jan. 6 in a joint session. If one House member and one senator object, then the two chambers will separately consider it.
When House Democrats objected four years ago, Biden, presiding over the Senate as vice president, asked for Senate objections. There were none. At one point he cut off a congresswoman, said, “It is over” and banged his gavel.
It is over this time as well. Whether you see the glass as half full or half empty may depend on who you voted for, but even the optimist and pessimist can at least agree that it’s neither full nor empty.
Maybe sometimes – immediately after an election, for example – we need to take a break, put the glass to the side and look at something else for a while.
Steve Brawner is a syndicated columnist in Arkansas. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @stevebrawner.