Rule of Law & Elections
Bart Binning, Ed. D.
The day of the riot in the Nation’s Capitol, Dr. Condoleezza Rice, now a director of Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, issued a statement that said, in part:
What we witnessed was a stain on our democracy — whatever your political views — that must never be repeated… Peaceful protest is a long held right of democracies but that is not what happened today.
The desecration of the US Capitol building is a flagrant violation of the rule of law and an attack on the democratic processes that have been underway. Those who participated should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The United States of America has long been an example to countries around the world for our commitment to democracy and the peaceful transfer of power, even during the most difficult of times. (1)
I doubt that there are any that disagree with the sentiments of Dr. Rice. However, if we are to move forward, we need to understand the past and uncover the root causes for the struggles of the past. In short, we need to understand the answer to a common WHY.
In problem solving one needs to separate symptoms from the underlying problems; fixing a symptom does not solve what is wrong. The rule-of-thumb in problem solving is to ask the question WHY, a minimum of three times. If you find an answer to the WHY question, it is a symptom – ask WHY again. When you no longer have an answer to the WHY question, you have identified the problem.
Rule-of-Law / Fairness
Fairness and the Rule-of-Law are interrelated. Fairness is concerned with actions, processes, and consequences, that are morally right honorable, and a subjective standard by which a court proceeding has followed due process. Rule-of-law is a principle under which all persons, institutions, and entities are accountable to laws that are Publicly promulgated, Equally enforced and Independently adjudicated. (2)
I would submit that the desecration of the US Capitol building is a symptom to problems that have been festering in our country for decades. And, in the end, one problem is a perceived breakdown of the rule-of-law by a substantial minority of our citizens, on both sides of the political spectrum.
Last year, during a conversation with a local agent of the FBI who had received several top awards from the bureau. I asked him why he had not yet been promoted to a job in the organization’s DC Headquarters, a normal progression for a successful agent. His reply was that he had received several offers over the past few years, but he declined them because he did not think a transfer to the DC office, at this time, would advance his career.
This summer’s Black Lives Matter movement was primarily based on a perception that there is a different police standard applied to the black community, when compared to other groups. It is submitted that the current lack of confidence in the Rule of Law is further exacerbated by the issues in our election process.
The opponents of the Trump administration have spent the past four years trying to delegitimize his election for what they view as righteous reasons. At the same time, the mainstream media’s focus has shifted from reporting the truth, to activism in promoting political positions, polarizing the electorate. (3)
System of Elections
Related to the perception of a general disregard to the Rule of Law, is the perception on both sides of the isle that there is a systemic problem with our processes of elections. The US Constitution gives the responsibility of managing elections to the states. Many states delegate this responsibility to their respective counties. Which recalls the old axiom: When everyone is in charge, no one is in charge because no one has responsibility. Both sides suggest that we have a systemic problem with our system of elections. Democrats see the fault in terms of suppression of minorities in voting. Republicans tend to see the issue in terms of election fraud, people voting who are not authorized to vote (one person casts more than one vote).
Stacy Abrams, Minority Leader in the Georgia House of Representatives and a former Democratic candidate for Georgia Governor, has written several books, and her efforts have been widely credited with boosting turnout among progressives in Georgia. Ms. Abrams argues that some states and some counties are better at implementing their election responsibility than others. She suggests that in recent history, Republicans tent to make voting more difficult in minority precincts, causing long voting lines, which can be perceives as an attempt at voter suppression. As an example, she sites the 2020 election, which in part because of COVID, saw a huge increase in voter turnout and a large increase in mail-in ballots, a situation that was predicted. In Georgia in minority districts, voters turned out with picnic baskets, lawn chairs and water, in anticipation of a long wait in the voting lines – on the day of the election, despite record mail-in votes, 4-6 hour wait times in minority districts were not uncommon. (4)
Republicans, spurred on by rhetoric of the President, have claimed election fraud. Democrats, progressive news organizations, and many courts have counter that there is no evidence of substantial election fraud – enough to change the results of the election. The courts are typically reluctant to enter the political realm and do so only when election decisions are suspect. Progressive news organizations then frame the news story as if there was no election fraud, now or in the recent past. This is a suspect statement considering the data provided by the conservative Heritage Foundation. The Heritage Foundation’s Election Fraud Database (5) presents a sampling of recent proven instances of election fraud, found in almost every state, such that the results of an election were was overturned, and/or convicted people were sentenced to jail time – the database provides links to court records that may be reviewed.
The last chapter of Ms. Abrams book Our Time is Now, is titled “The Next Best Version of America”. Even though the book was written after the 2016 election, it is worth reading now, by everyone. I would submit that there is a great similarity between what progressives felt after the election of Trump (resulting in their trying to delegitimize the election), and what Trump supporters now feel with the election of Biden. Ms. Abrams says, in part, in her last chapter:
Candidates do not win or lose because they express concern or solidarity for otherness. They win or lose because they ignore it, or because some voters are afraid of it. But in the midst of demographic upheaval, the rise of voter suppression and the denouncement of identity politics by the marginalized, share common cause. Voter suppression serve to block access by those who are not considered full citizens because of race and status…
But the integration of voter access and identity is the fundamental purpose of democracy. As a nation we organize ourselves to delegate authority, over both the most profound and the most mundane policy matters, to the people. In reaction to the tyranny of a monarchy, we established an inclusive, independent process that, in theory, assigned equality to all citizens by virtue of the vote. Not by race, class, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, or physical ability. The only hurdle was supposed to be gaining citizenship. Yet as history and current day behavior show, we continue to struggle, to believe that full citizenship belong to all who are entitled to hold it. Instead, for more than 200 years, we have seen the act of voting thwarted based on identity. And we have witnessed the very identities, thrusted on those communities by the majority, used as a justification for suppression and oppression. The results has been a silencing of voices, and worse, a silencing of ideas. And a disconnection from what people need to actively participate in our nation’s future.
In a democracy, if we do not hear from everyone, the complexity of our communities goes unaddressed, and our national ambition is incomplete. When citizens feel unrepresented, or worse, exercised from the process, disengagement follows. Often, those potential voters who sit out elections, are decried as apathetic. And too many of them would agree with the description… (6)
It is submitted that the first step in coming together, is the recognition that there are both vast progressive as well as conservative sectors of society that now feel disenfranchised. Most politicians when they are first elected say they job is to bring people together. Today, however, as one political side gains power, when going forward, revenge and not bringing people together seems to be what is implemented. It would appear that the major issue of the 2020 election was not the conservative assumption of the economy or capitalism, but the progressive assumption of voter suppression. And both sides believe they were treated unfairly.
The question then becomes, how do we work together to overcome these disenfranchised, lack of fairness feelings on both sides of the political isle? How do we react, not looking backward with the thought of revenge or trying to undo the election, but how do we look forward with hope and bringing people together?
 Rice, Condolezza. “Our Nation’s Capitol: Today: A Statement from Director Condoleezza Rice. Hoover Institution, Stanford University 1/6/2021. Downloaded 1/9/2021. https://www.hoover.org/news/our-nations-capitol-today-statement-director-condoleezza-rice?utm_source=Hoover+Daily+Report&utm_campaign=6ee72f7adc-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2019_09_05_04_36_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_21b1edff3c-6ee72f7adc-73120741
(2) Overview – Rule of Law | United States Courts. Downloaded 1/13/21. www.uscourts.gov/educational-resources/educational-activities/overview-rule-law[3 Lewis, Hellen. “The Mainstream Media Won’t Tell You This”. The Atlantic. June 12, 2020. Downloaded 1/20/2021 https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2020/06/conspiracy-mainstream-media-trump-farage-journalism/612628/ [4Abrams, Stacy. OUR TIME IS NOW: Power, Purpose, and the Fight for a Fair America. Henry Holt and Co. 2020. ISBN: 9781250257703.
C-Span Book TV interview by Erin Haines, Editor at Large: The 19th News. Originally broadcast 6/10/2020, Re-Broadcast 1/10/ 2021.  Heritage Foundation. “Election Fraud Database: A Sampling of Recent Election Fraud Cases from Across the United States”. Downloaded 1/9/2021. https://www.heritge.org/votorfraud
The Election Fraud Database “presents a sampling of recent proven instances of election fraud from across the country. Each and every one of the cases in this database represents an instance in which a public official, usually a prosecutor, thought it serious enough to act upon it. And each and every one ended in a finding that the individual had engaged in wrongdoing in connection with an election hoping to affect its outcome — or that the results of an election were sufficiently in question and had to be overturned.”
(6) Ibid. Abrams. OUR TIME IS NOW. Chapter 10: The Next Best Version of America (transcribed from an audio version of the book)