What’s Trump really trying to do this week by refusing to sign the Covid-19 relief bill? Assuming that he’s got the ability to think any political issue through, here’s my two cents – take it to the bank or not.
Trump’s not trying to wreck the GOP. He’s also not trying to cozy up to Biden so that the next President will not appoint an Attorney General who will try to lock up Trump in a facility that won’t look anything like the Mar-a-Lago resort. I’ve heard both those theories and as far as I’m concerned, it’s fake news on both sides.
What Trump is trying to do is put together some kind of movement that will get him re-elected by the House of Representatives on January 6th. And don’t think for one minute that this strategy is so far-fetched, because it happens to be how Thomas Jefferson became the President of the United States.
The reason that the House elected the President in 1800 was because the original electoral vote gave Jefferson and Aaron Burr 73 votes each. Prior to the passage of the 12th Amendment in 1804, the Constitution’s Article II, Section 1, Clause 3 defined the election procedure which required that electors cast votes for 2 individuals without specifying who would be President and who would be Vice President.
The issue of deciding between Jefferson and Burr was complicated by the fact that another slate of candidates had also received 65 electoral votes and these votes would be up for grabs when the House met to determine who would be the third President of the United States. The Jefferson-Burr slate was known as the Republican, the other slate headed by the incumbent President, John Adams, was known as the Federalist group.
The division between these two groups who weren’t yet political parties in the formal sense, first appeared when the Constitution was debated and written at the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention in 1787, then sent to the states in 1789 and along with the Bill of Rights, ratified in 1791.
The division was between proponents of a strong, centralized national government who called themselves Federalists, as opposed to proponents, calling themselves Republicans, who wanted political power held and administered by the individual states. The Federalist approach was more popular in the northern, urbanized states, the Republicans tended to represent the concerns of landed planters – slaveholders in the South and small, landowning farmers in both the North and the South.
The Federalist’s demand for a strong, centralized government was largely the work of Alexander Hamilton, who as first Treasury Secretary promoted the idea of a national bank. Hamilton was convinced that a country that was largely agrarian-based would never have enough money to pay the costs of military defense; he was also convinced that the back-country farmers were basically a bunch of uneducated dopes. In other words, the basic division between an urban, financial, and mercantile ‘elite’ versus the ‘average common man’ was as evident in the 1800 election as it was evident this past year.
There was, however, one difference, which is why Trump’s attempt to get himself re-elected in the House of Representatives on January 6th is going to fail. Even though it took the House Republicans 36 separate votes to finally sway someone to vote for Jefferson instead of Burr, there was never any talk about election ‘fraud.’ And from the beginning of the 2020 campaign, the election ‘fraud’ strategy was never going to work.
Why not? Because there was no election fraud. How could there be any credible proof of a ‘crooked’ election when the attorney who went before the Supreme Court to argue this case cited as her ‘proof’ a podcast by a blogger who has been told to repay more than $25 grand in donations illegally received on her website? [Thanks Paula.]
Come to think of it, skimming donations from websites seems to have become SOP for members of Trump’s gang. I guess the only reason that Trump didn’t pardon Steve Bannon was because Stevie-boy has only been charged, not yet convicted of stealing a million bucks..
If we’re lucky, Trump won’t come back to DC next year. He’ll sit in Florida and rant to himself.
This column was written after I read Sean Wilentz’s very good book, The Rise of American Democracy. I thank Eric Foner for recommending it.