Remember the days of Jade Helm 15? It was a federal military operation in 2015 conducted in several states and designed to train soldiers for combat overseas. The operation garnered enough right-wing attention that U.S. Senator Ted Cruz contacted the Pentagon, and Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered his state guard to monitor “military activities “.
The Jade Helm 15 uproar involved a conspiracy theory that then-President Barack Obama intended to declare martial law and not leave office after his second term. It was whispered at the church I attended and discussed at political conferences I attended. At the time, I didn’t find the fixation alarming. After all, as Lord Acton wrote in the 19th century, I believed that “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”.
Nevertheless, I found these warnings about martial law dubious. After Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 election, there was no fear in the background that somehow, under the facade of institutional norms, lurked Obama’s secret plan to thwart our liberal democracy and impose itself as the American Vladimir Putin.
Over the past four years, however, the political tables have turned. The American people have a case in which a sitting president, after a clear election defeat, used the ability of his office to spread lies about the election results; pressures elected officials to commit fraud in order to “find votes”; and abandoned his duty to protect the United States Capitol building, members of Congress, and, most shockingly, his own vice president from insurgents he knew were armed.
Additionally, this former president worked with and coordinated schemes to illegally reject electoral votes and to have some state legislatures submit fraudulent voter lists in order to secure an illegitimate presidential victory.
This is what the United States House Select Committee hearings investigating the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol confirmed – an obvious, observed, and documented coup.
Still, Trump’s path back to the White House looks stronger today than it did two years ago. The damning revelations presented during the January 6 hearings by former White House aides and administration officials created a false sense of security, leading to headlines claiming that President Joe Biden, despite his low rating of approval, would beat Trump head to head.
If the 2024 presidential election were held today, it appears Trump would not only win the Electoral College, he would likely win the popular vote as well. The current Trump vs. Biden polling average has Trump at 44.5% and Biden at 42.5%. For reference, polling averages on Election Day in 2020 had Biden at 51.2% to Trump’s 44%.
There’s no denying that the disastrous pullout from Afghanistan, a growing border crisis, soaring inflation and fears of an impending recession have contributed to President Biden’s declining approval. Add to that his displays of mental incompetence and none of it comes as a surprise.
Our republic is fragile, especially when its preservation requires voters to prioritize a political philosophy, such as democratic government, over their immediate economic needs.
When Trump bragged “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters,” he could have traded “planning a coup to overthrow a legitimate presidential election. ” and to have been right – especially if gas prices were high.
The question of winning is not the only concern. There are the issues that drive people to the polls. When was the last time “election certification” was a major issue for voters? He won’t even do the pollsters’ questionnaires, yet he’s absolutely on the ballot.
Mastriano vs. Shapiro
A more immediate example would be the Pennsylvania gubernatorial race, in which Republican candidate State Senator Doug Mastriano declared that as governor, “I could decertify all the (voting) machines in the state of ‘a stroke of the pen via my Secretary of State.
To date, the FiveThirtyEight website gives the Democratic candidate, State Attorney General Josh Shapiro, an 81% chance of winning with a projected margin of victory of about 6%. Is it reassuring? Certainly, if a four-year patch to preserve institutional standards is a priority for you.
It doesn’t change the fact that a candidate who took people to the US Capitol on January 6 and actively sought to overturn Pennsylvania’s popular vote has the support of about 46% of Pennsylvanians! Winning or losing is condemnable.
In retrospect, I wanted to believe that those “on high alert” to expose the “secret machinations” of the Obama administration were doing so out of a natural, if overzealous, distrust of the government. Now they appear as partisan hacks, rising to command as soon as their power has been jeopardized.
However, partisan hacking is not the only problem. We started to believe in different stories of America, and the further these stories got, the more it fractured our institutional foundations.
In his 2004 speech to the Democratic National Convention, Obama said, “Besides our famous individualism, there is another ingredient in the American saga. A belief that we are all connected as one people.
The only solution to repelling this encroaching force of authoritarian populism is a story that all Americans can relate to. Does the American saga have the power to overcome the myths that each political party sings to its respective base? Probably not.
One must desire unity. Contrary to myth, the American saga is rooted in history – founded on a certain set of ideals, fought by brave women and men, but accompanied by 400 years of enormous injustice. It’s not pristine, nor altogether hideous; but God help us if we don’t unite behind it.
I write these feelings as a member of a Republican and local committee; but, more specifically, as an American living in southeastern Pennsylvania. Right now my party is in a battle over what story it will tell, but it would be dishonest to assume that it is alone in this fight.
Joe Mohler is a committee member of the Lancaster Township Republican Committee and its former chairman.