We all remember that fateful day, September 11, 2001, and the moment when President George W. Bush got the news. While Bush was reading to a group of second-graders at Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card walked in and whispered into the president’s ear: “America is under attack.”
Today, Chief of Staff Ron Klain might well whisper those same words to President Joe Biden. Because in a very real sense, “America is under attack” again, just like it was on September 11, but with one big difference. This time, America’s under attack, not by a small band of foreign terrorists, but by legions of domestic terrorists: Republican officeholders at the state and federal level who are out to gut and destroy our democracy.
Here’s the problem: The very phrase, “America is under attack,” sounds unreal. When most people hear it, they don’t believe it. How can American democracy be under attack? We’ve been around for 245 years. America under attack? That’s just hyper political rhetoric. It can’t be serious.
Except it is. Deadly serious. We are experiencing, without exaggeration, the greatest threat to our national security since the Civil War. This is no standard political debate about tax cuts, affirmative action, or fracking. This is far more consequential. This is a direct assault on the heart and soul of America: the power of the people and the sanctity of the popular vote. As President Biden warned on Memorial Day: “Democracy itself is in peril. What we do now … will determine whether or not democracy will long endure.”
Perpetuating Donald Trump’s big lie about massive voter fraud in 2020, Republican leaders are undermining democracy on three fronts, each more serious than the other. First, making it harder to vote. If that doesn’t work, enabling state legislatures to overturn the popular vote. And, as if that’s not enough, urging armed insurrection against the United States government. Look around you. It’s happening right before your eyes.
MAKING IT HARDER TO VOTE. The goal in a democracy should be making it as easy and convenient as possible to vote. Republicans are doing just the opposite, throwing up every possible roadblock to suppress the vote. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, since November 2020, 360 voter suppression bills have been introduced in 47 states, of which 14 states have already enacted a total of 22 new restrictive laws. They range from eliminating or reducing hours of early voting; shutting down polling places; requiring a photo ID; and banning vote-by-mail or limiting its use by requiring voters to apply and provide an excuse. Georgia even made it a crime to approach voters in line to give them food and water.
OVERTURNING THE VOTE. If, despite their efforts to suppress the vote, Republicans still end up losing, they have another ace up their sleeve: allowing Republican-controlled legislatures to take over the process from local election officials and reverse the results of the official vote. Such legislation has been introduced in 14 states and is already the law in Georgia and Arizona.
ARMED INSURRECTION. But Republicans don’t stop there. If they can’t cheat and steal the election itself, they’ll unleash the forces of violence. Indeed, they’re already doing so. At a QAnon event in Dallas last week, Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, was asked why a bloody military coup like the one recently in Myanmar couldn’t happen here. “No reason,” Flynn replied. “I mean, it should happen here.”
Wacky Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz recently told a rally in Georgia that the Second Amendment is not about hunting, recreation or sports. Instead, Gaetz said, the Second Amendment is about “the ability to maintain an armed rebellion against the government if that becomes necessary.” Of course, Gaetz was only echoing the words of Donald Trump on January 6 when he urged supporters to storm the U.S. Capitol.
Meanwhile, Trump himself is keeping the Big Lie alive – and fueling the assault on democracy – by assuring supporters that bootleg recounts now underway in Maricopa County, Arizona, and Fulton County, Georgia, will reinstate him as president by August 2021 and trigger a second Inaugural Day.
Wake up, America! The threat is real. Our democracy is under attack. Suppressing the vote? Overturning the vote? Violent overthrow of the United States? There’s only one word for such actions. It’s treason. It’s time to treat them as such. And charge all those responsible with treason, starting with Donald Trump.
Bill Press is host of The BillPressPod. His email address is email@example.com. Readers may also follow him on Twitter @billpresspod