Does anybody out there remember when two of the things Republicans hated the most were “activist judges” and people styling themselves as victims? The last Republican President before Donald Trump, that would be George W. Bush, used to spit the term out with such contempt, “activist judges.” Trump has now spent more than a month trying to get judges to overturn his clear defeat in the presidential election. Trump of course isn’t the first Republican to be a hypocrite about activist judges. He has just taken the practice to new depths.
Likewise Republicans began declaring themselves victims quite a while back, for instance claiming they are victims of religious persecution. As on so many other issues though, Trump has taken self victimization to where no one else has gone before. Here’s what he told the crowd at his rally in Georgia on Saturday, December 5: “We’re all victims. Everybody here, all these thousands of people here tonight, they’re all victims. Every one of you.” Trump was of course referring to his fantasy that he won the election and it was stolen from him, making him the victim of a broad conspiracy.
I wrote the above two paragraphs a few days ago and I want to thank Texans Ken Paxton and Ted Cruz for stepping forward since then to help prove my points. As most folks have seen, Paxton, on Tuesday December 8, filed a lawsuit at the US Supreme Court asking the court to throw out the presidential election results in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Georgia, and instead let the Republican controlled legislatures in those state pick electors. Paxton claims that measures these states put in place to make voting safer and less difficult during the pandemic violated federal law, and thus the votes in those states should be thrown out. If Paxton were to get his way, Trump would get a second term, rather than Joe Biden who won the popular vote in each of those four states and won the popular vote nationwide by over seven million votes.
It is difficult to think of something more undemocratic. And, if the Court were to actually rule in Paxton’s favor, that would be about the most activist thing a group of judges could do. Such an outcome seems highly unlikely. In fact Paxton got a bad sign only hours after filing his sycophantic lawsuit, when the Supreme Court refused to hear another case that sought to throw out all the mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania (but only Pennsylvania). In a one sentence statement the Court announced that they would not hear the case, letting a lower court ruling against it stand.
Nonetheless, Americans should not assume that Paxton’s lawsuit will get laughed out of court. Trump has been saying for months that he thinks that the election will end up before the Supreme Court. He argued that Amy Coney Barrett needed to be appointed rapidly so she could be there to vote on any election case.
Wednesday morning, December 9, Trump tweeted at least twice, about the Paxton case, calling it “the big one.” First, referring to the Pennsylvania case his allies lost, he tweeted: “This was not my case as has been so incorrectly reported. The case that everyone has been waiting for is the State’s case with Texas and numerous others joining. It is very strong, ALL CRITERIA MET. How can you have a presidency when a vast majority think the election was RIGGED?” (It’s tempting to deconstruct this tweet, but that would get me off the main subject.)
He followed that with, “We will be INTERVENING in the Texas (plus many other states) case. This is the big one. Our Country needs a victory!” Later that day Trump’s legal team did indeed file to intervene.
However Paxton’s quixotic effort to save Trump turns out, it gave members of both the state and national media an opportunity to review Paxton’s legal troubles. He is still under a 2015 securities fraud indictment in Collin County and is currently under investigation by the FBI on other matters. The FBI investigation stems, at least in part, from complaints of potentially criminal conduct against Paxton by several of his top aides, now former top aides.
One possibility raised in national media, including by Rachel Maddow of MSNBC is that Paxton’s real goal is to get one of Trump’s final days preemptive pardons. That would only help him with the FBI investigations, but could still be big for Paxton.
Adler Makes the Daily Show
All in all it was an embarrassing day and evening for Texas — or should have been — on national news and late night comedy shows. Speaking of late night comedy shows and embarrassing to Texas, Austin Mayor Steve Adler’s trip to Cabo San Lucas made it onto the Daily Social Distancing Show with Trevor Noah. There was a feature about several Democratic officials around the nation who, as Noah put it, “haven’t been practicing what they preach.” Adler was a headliner during that segment. That was about four minutes into the show. Then, at the end of the show, Noah did a spoof in which he solemnly encouraged people to stay home, then made it appear that instead of broadcasting from his apartment in New York City he was actually in Cabo San Lucas.
Continuing on the theme of things that should be embarrassing to Texas, let’s talk about Ted Cruz. On Monday, Cruz tweeted that the plaintiffs in the Pennsylvania election case, asked him to argue their case before the Supreme Court, if the Court accepted the case. Cruz said he had agreed to do so. He won’t get the chance because the Court refused to hear the case — the same one discussed above.
Kimberly Wehle explained the hypocrisy well in the Bulwark, a conservative, but anti-Trump publication: “You got that right. Cruz — the strict constructionist — is eager to stand before the U.S. Supreme Court to argue that the Pennsylvania legislature had no power to allow universal mail-in voting, but does have the power to throw out every single vote cast in Pennsylvania and impose its own political will on the citizens of Pennsylvania, who chose Joe Biden for president by a nearly 82,000-vote margin over Donald Trump.” In other words, Cruz wants the Supreme Court to be activist judges.
And, oh yeah, what ever happened to that sacred Republican, and Confederate, principal of States’ Rights? How do Paxton and Cruz think they have the standing to challenge the vote in other states?
Now, let’s end on a hopeful note, a simple one, but hopeful. President-elect Biden this week announced a three-pronged strategy to deal with the coronavirus: masks, vaccines, and opening schools in as safe a manner as possible. He cautioned that defeating the virus won’t be quick or easy. But, he has a plan; and he acknowledge that the federal government actually needs a plan and has a responsibility to fight the virus and its impacts on Americans. That seems like a simple thing, but it’s not something we have yet had from the top of the federal government.
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