Thursday, January 19, 2017

Backing Off

It's the same old tune. On January 6, immediately after the end of the roll call of states as Congress certified the electoral votes from November's presidential election, Democratic Representative Maxine Waters of California asked "is there one United States senator who will join me?"

Of course not, just as there is not one United States senator who will bypass Donald Trump's inauguration.

The boycott by dozens of Democratic Representatives of the inauguration is merely a symbol, albeit an important symbol.  But the gathering on January 6 was not merely ceremonial, for

Members of the House of Representatives objected to the electoral tally in states including Alabama, Florida, Michigan, Texas, Mississippi and the Carolinas in a symbolic move that exposed lingering dismay over a contentious election campaign.

Some members complained about long lines at polling stations while others cited concerns over Russian attempts to influence the result in Trump's favor....

None of the representatives had the backing of a senator, which would have allowed them to suspend the joint session and allow the House and Senate to meet separately to debate the objections.

Like a voice crying in the wilderness

"I object because people are horrified by the overwhelming evidence of Russian interference in our election," said Representative Barbara Lee of California before being overruled.

Biden denied the objections one by one, at times jocular and apparently determined to finish the tally. "It is over," he said at one point, to laughter from Republicans.

Why waste our time? It's only the presidency of the nation's pre-eminent nuclear power.

We've seen this play before.  Sixteen years (minus one day) earlier, The New York Times had reported

The rancor lingering from the bitterly contested presidential election spilled over during a joint session of Congress today, forcing Vice President Al Gore to gavel down black House members time and again in order to make official the election of his opponent, George W. Bush.

Congressional certification of the Electoral College vote is usually quick and routine. But nothing has been ordinary about the November election that will result in Mr. Bush being sworn in this month as the first president since Benjamin Harrison in 1888 to win the Electoral College but lose the popular vote.

Today, for nearly 20 minutes in the cavernous House chamber, a dozen members of the Congressional Black Caucus, joined by a few sympathizers, tried in vain to block the counting of Florida's 25 electoral votes, protesting that black voters had been disenfranchised. Florida's highly contested electoral votes were crucial in Mr. Bush's victory after a prolonged legal and political battle following an inconclusive election.

Federal law requires a member of both the House and the Senate to question a state's electoral votes in writing for a formal objection to be considered. But the House members had no Senate support. So Mr. Gore, who was presiding in his role as Senate president, slammed down the gavel to silence them and rule their objections and parliamentary maneuvers out of order.

"There's something  about an Aqua Velva man," the old commercial went, and "it's a sad day in America when we can't find a Senator to sign this objection," Representative Jesse L. Jackson of Illinois said on January 7, 2001.  Like Aqua Velva and Mary, there is something about Democratic senators, and not in a good way. Seventeen years ago and also two weeks ago, they were offered political cover by House members and had the chance to deliberate. They weren't up to it.

Now John Lewis- John Lewis!- says "I don't see Trump as a legitimate President" and 68 Democratic members of the US House of Representatives respond by promising to boycott the inauguration. The tally among Senators: zero (0).

If this pattern is simply the contempt held by the Senate for the House, that would be bad enough. It is worse if it's the Democratic instinct to bring a knife to a gun fight. The Trump crowd is big on the Second Amendment, and a metaphorical knife will be insufficient.

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