Rep. Donalds Refuses to Acknowledge Legitimacy of 2020 Presidential Election Outcome

Byron Donalds (R) is the recently-elected Member of Congress representing Florida’s 19th Congressional District. The district was created in 1983 and for thirty years was represented by a Democrat. Since 2013, however, this district representing southwest Florida has been a staunchly conservative, Republican stronghold. 

Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL19)

As a constituent, I recently wrote him and posed a simple question. Expressing my deep concern about current polling indicating the degree to which so many registered Republicans believe Donald Trump’s lies that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him, I asked Rep. Donalds this question:  “Do you agree or disagree with the assertion that the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as President and Vice-President was legitimate?”

The response I received (by email, dated Jan. 17, 2021; see below for full text) was … well … wordy, to say the least. The response was addressed to “Dear Constituent” (apparently Mr. Donalds’ staff have not yet mastered the skills required to personalize canned responses), and – to his credit – it spelled out clearly his condemnation of the violent attacks on the US Congress that occurred on Jan. 6, 2021. 

At least three times, however, Mr. Donalds makes claims about the constitutionality of other States’ electoral procedures in the 2020 presidential election. At least three times Donalds asserts that there were “violations of election law” in that election. While he does not directly answer my simple “yes” or “no” question, his response clearly suggests that his answer is “no,” that he does not accept as legitimate the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as President and Vice-President of these United States.

Mr. Donalds is not an attorney.  He has a bachelor’s degree from Florida State University, and a professional background in banking and finance. Despite his lack of legal credentials, he continues to assert – contrary to the judgments of numerous federal judges, including many Republican and some Trump-appointed judges – that the 2020 election was somehow fraudulent. 

Trump and his supporters mounted no less than 42 legal challenges (as of Jan. 5, 2021) against the results of the election outcome in various states. Trump lost each and every one of these challenges. The vast majority of these challenges were unsuccessful for one reason, and one reason only:  the “violations of election law” that concern Mr. Donalds DO NOT EXIST. There was no wide-spread fraud, there were no constitutional violations, there was no steal to be stopped!

Even the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) had its say. SCOTUS refused to hear a challenge brought by the Texas Attorney General and other Trump allies challenging the legitimacy of the Electoral College votes of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Georgia.  Why did SCOTUS refuse to intervene?  While I’m no attorney either, one doesn’t need a law degree to understand that SCOTUS refused to intervene because of “standing.” To us non-lawyers, standing is what a court requires a litigant to have before it can bring a suit in court.  It simply means that you have a say, you have a voice that needs to be heard, that you are somehow involved in the matter at hand. If you’re not involved, if you don’t have a say, it means you have “no standing.” Put bluntly … SCOTUS told Texas: “You have no standing. It’s none of your business!” 

That answer, however, wasn’t good enough for Mr. Donalds. It wasn’t good enough for him that there was no evidence of wide-spread election fraud. It wasn’t good enough for him that thousands of election workers and officials throughout the country worked diligently to ensure a “free and fair election.” And, most egregiously, it wasn’t good enough for him that numerous courts, including the US Supreme Court, have lent no credence whatsoever to the bogus claims of election fraud. And so, because the weight of all this solid evidence wasn’t good enough for Mr. Donalds, he joined 147 other Republicans in the US House of Representatives in a fruitless attempt to thwart the will of millions of American voters. Mr. Donalds wanted to replace their voice with his; he wanted to replace their millions of votes for Joe Biden with his one vote for Donald Trump.

The opening sentence of Mr. Donalds’ response to me says this: “Our republic will stand.” On that, we agree. Despite the attempt of violent insurrectionists spurred on by a defeated president, and despite Rep. Donalds’ attempt to undermine the legitimate process of our elections – on Jan, 6, 2021 (and into the early hours of Jan. 7, 2021), our republic DID stand. 

Byron Donalds’ refusal to state that he accepts the outcome of the 2020 election should give us pause.  His refusal raises serious questions about his ability to look at facts and to make sound judgments. Let us hope and pray he will have a change of heart, a change spurred on not by the political winds of the day, but by the commitment to principle on which he states he stands “above all else.” Let us hope and pray that Rep. Donalds will clearly, unequivocally, and publicly declare that the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris was legitimate and that they are duly elected as President and Vice President of the United States of America.

Here is the full text of Mr. Donalds’ reponse:

The Senate Needs to do a 9th Step

Step Nine. The 9th Step of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and other 12-step support groups is familiar to anyone involved in recovery. It’s the step in which individuals recognize that their past behavior under the influence of addiction has caused harm to others; and that if they are to have any integrity in their recovery, they must do what they can to make amends, to make things right again. Here’s Step Nine in the words of AA:

“Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”

Step Nine of Alcoholics Anonymnous

The “such people” referred to in Step Nine are those mentioned in the previous Step Eight, “… a list of all persons we had harmed.”

What does this have to do with the Senate of today? Well, in 2016 Leader Mitch McConnell and Republican Senators did grave harm to the tradition of the US Senate, to the United States Constitution, and to the American People. McConnell and friends took great pride in blocking then-President Obama from fulfilling his Constitutional duty when they would not even consider Judge Merrick Garland, nominated by Obama to fill a recently vacated Supreme Court seat after the untimely death of Justice Antonin Scalia. None of this history is in doubt. Nor, in doubt, are the reasons McConnell took such action — to block a duly-elected President with 11 months left in his term from filling a vacancy on the nation’s highest court.

Instead of doing what they were supposed to do — and with 270 days before the upcoming presidential election — McConnell and Senate Republicans chose to leave the Supreme Court with just 8 Justices. McConnell’s choice to leave the Court with hands tied did not take long to have real life consequences. In March 2016, the Court handed down its first deadlocked 4-4 decision in the case of Hawkins vs Community Bank of Raymore.

The power to which McConnell and his senate colleagues are addicted is no less destructive than the substances of alcohol and heroin and crystal meth that can destroy not only brains and bodies, but also families, friendships, and the bonds of affection between fellow humans.

Does the sitting president have the right to nominate someone to fill the current Supreme Court vacancy upon the very recent passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg? Yes. When such a nomination is received, does the US Senate have a constitutional responsibility to act on that nomination as they give “advice and consent” to such presidential nominees? Yes, again.

But the issue, however, is that none of what is currently happening exists in a vacuum. There is one inescapable aspect in the situation described above — McConnell’s 2016 unprecedented attack on the authority not of the Presidency, but on the authority of one particular President, Barack Obama. That inescapable fact is that the actions of the Senate at that time did not just do harm, but did grave harm — harm for which amends must be made if they and the Senate, the Constitution, and the American People are to be made more whole once again.

If we as a nation are to return to a less-politicized notion of the Supreme Court — thinking of the Justices not as one writer put it as “politicians in black robes,” but rather as the (almost) final arbiters of Justice in our Constitutional democracy — then the Senate now must make amends. They must NOT take action on any nominee offered by the current president.

By not taking action now, Senators will demonstrate that they recognize that in 2016 their actions revealed just how drunk with power they were (and in many ways still are). By not taking action now and by waiting until the inauguration of a new president in 2021, they will tell the American People that they recognize they were wrong in 2016, and that they wish to make amends. By not taking action now, they will be telling the American People of today and future generations that they can put country over party, that they can put aside petty politics and do what is right.

Justice Ginsburg died just 47 days before the presidential election scheduled for Nov. 3, 2020. In fact, however, she died after voting in this election has already begun, given that several states began mail-in voting in early September. (See Then and Now: What McConnell, others said about Merrick Garland in 2016 vs. after Ginsburg’s death for a more complete timeline.)

If the Senate moves forward with a nominee that the current president seems intent on putting forth, they will show that not only are they still very drunk with power, but that the deadly effects of such addiction are affecting us all, and that — like most addicts in the midst of addiction — they don’t care about anyone or anything else, other than their next fix.

Race, Religion, and Empathy

Donald Trump at his June 20 rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma

The National Catholic Reporter reports that Trump support declines among white and Hispanic Catholics. From my perspective, that’s a good thing. This indicates that the president’s support among Catholics is trending in the right direction. But … and there’s always a “but” … that story’s sub-heading is not so positive: But poll finds he would still win the white Catholic vote. Based on a recent poll from the Pew Research Center, it seems that 57% of White Catholics still say they would “vote for/lean toward voting for” Trump. Though different conclusions may be drawn from the same data, these data continue to paint a picture that says this: White Catholics tend to value their “Whiteness” more than their “Catholicity.”

As a White Catholic who is also gay and of Irish heritage (today would be the 108th birthday of my Dublin-born maternal grandmother!), this is what I find so troubling: I and those who came before me know what it feels like to be “othered,” to be excluded, to be on the outside looking in. Thankfully, great progress has been made for Irish-Americans, though there was a period not too long ago when there was significant anti-Irish sentiment in America, and “NINA” (No Irish Need Apply”) signs often accompanied employers’ Help Wanted advertisements. Even more recently, the increased acceptance in American society of LGBTQ people has been a beacon of hope for those who, less than a generation ago, were often compelled to remain closeted about a fundamental aspect of who they/we are. The great promise of America is that there is no such thing as the “other.” Our national motto — E Pluribus Unum (Out of Many, One) — enshrines the more folksy sentiment that in this country, every stranger is simply “a friend I haven’t yet met.” Americans’ greatness becomes real when we practice what we preach, when we welcome with open arms the world’s tired, poor, and huddled masses “yearning to breathe free.”

And yet … when we look at our current president, and especially at our fellow citizens who so vocally support him at his rallies and online, we hear nothing but “othering” language which tries to build walls between the false dichotomy of “us and them.” Trump’s entire presidency (some might say his entire life) has been marked by using race, religion, sex, gender and ethnicity to “other” any and all who might challenge him, disagree with him, or see things differently than he. As humans, the experience of having been “excluded” is an experience that should increase our empathy, not propagate discord, disdain, and division. Empathy is the ability to stand in someone else’s shoes, to see the world through their eyes, and recognize that their experience is valid and valuable. Empathy opens my mind and my heart, and leads me to embrace more deeply the truth that we are much more alike than we are different. Empathy — and my faith — tell me that, deep down, there really is no “us and them,” there’s only US.

The Morality of a Vote

Does my vote mean anything? Does it really make a difference if I check the name of Candidate A or Candidate B? Does it matter whether his/her name has an “R” or a “D” next to it?  If you think your vote has little impact, think again.

Just as surely as every elected official is responsible for his/her policies pursued and official actions taken, so too does your vote, my vote, have a moral impact.  If you voted for Donald Trump and you don’t see the link between that vote, Trump’s election, and the murder of George Floyd, then your blindness is either willful or ignorant. Either way, you bear responsibility.

In his opinion piece today, George Will lays it out pretty clearly.  In part, he writes:

“The person voters hired in 2016 to ‘take care that the laws be faithfully executed’ stood on July 28, 2017, in front of uniformed police and urged them ‘please don’t be too nice’ when handling suspected offenders. His hope was fulfilled for 8 minutes and 46 seconds on Minneapolis pavement.”

Screen Shot 2020-06-02 at 7.48.18 PM

Trump’s Angry Tirade

Screen Shot 2020-04-14 at 5.42.32 AM“That’s just the left-wing media,” or “You need to stop watching that fake news.” Such are the baseless comments from Trump supporters whenever I’ve tried to engage them in thoughtful conversations about the current president.  When I try to explain that no, I’m not just parroting back what I’ve read in the Washington Post or the New York Times or seen on CNN; that what I’m sharing has come directly from Trump himself, I’m dismissed either with disbelief or an assertion that I’m exaggerating or taking him out of context.  Well, my Republican friends, what do you say when there’s no interpretation, no spin … just the words of Mr. Trump himself to provide full context and no exaggeration?

Yesterday’s White House briefing, ostensibly another update from the federal Coronavirus Task Force, was a sight to behold.  The paper-thin-skinned resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue apparently couldn’t take it anymore.  Apparently the aptly-titled and well-documented article from the NY Times, He Could Have Seen What Was Coming: Behind Trump’s Failure on the Virus was more than that thin skin could bear when the president was asked about it.  So, instead of spending the news conference providing reporters and the American people with much needed information about the virus’s impact on us all, the complainer-in-chief spent most of the time trying to defend himself against that article’s assertions — doing so, I might add, using a campaign-like piece of propaganda prepared by Federal workers on the our dime. The video, by the way, was instructive not so much for what it included, but what it excluded.

While this story from the Washington Post is correctly categorized as “analysis,” it accurately recounts what the “news briefing” was all about.

Here’s the whole briefing:

 

“Cheap Gospel”

Sunset over boardwalkRe: Ways of Knowing -A Fascinating Discovery

Much of what passes for Christianity today, especially that described by media too uninformed or uninterested to be more critical, is a version of that “cheap gospel” about which the author writes.

As someone who is fully western and fully American, perhaps this is why I so often feel a palpable existential angst when I look to today’s political and social and environmental landscapes.

If the experience of oppression does not teach us empathy for ‘the other,’ then we have learned little.

Lord, give us hope.

Trump, too, has blood on his hands

For millennia, faith-based principles have attempted to guide the forces of war and peace between powers and nations. I challenge any Catholic or other Christian – or any person of good will, for that matter – to educate yourself on some of these philosophical and theological principles. We do not subscribe to any version of “might makes right” or “my country, right or wrong.” We must hold our leaders and military to strict standards that reflect our deepest values.

https://www.ncronline.org/news/justice/catholic-ethicists-question-us-assassination-iranian-general