The Hydra was a mythological Greek creature with numerous heads. Impossible to kill, it was believed, because as soon as one head was chopped off two others grew in its place.
During the second of 12 labors assigned him by King Eurystheus of Mycenae, Hercules exposed the Hydra’s vulnerability. The Greek hero could succeed in killing the Hydra if he could stop it from regenerating heads. Reduced to just one head the Hydra succumbed to Hercules.
The tale of the Hydra may be instructive in our current political dilemma. Donald Trump refuses to accept defeat. It is not in his nature. To secure Joe Biden’s victory Trump’s Hydra-heads need to be neutralized.
Some might think the Hydra heads are Rudy Giuliani or Don Jr. or Eric Trump. Or Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell. But they are not, though to be candid, the failure of almost all national Republican politicians to accept election results reinforces the conclusion that the Republican Party should change its name to the Trumpian Party. Trumpians are undermining our democratic institutions and disrupting the orderly transfer of power. Tuesday, for example, we learned daily intelligence briefings are being withheld from President-elect Joe Biden, an act that endangers our national security.
The Hydra-heads now deserving our direst attention are the men and women in legislatures in states Trump is strongly contesting—Georgia, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Michigan, Wisconsin and Nevada—whose responsibility is to send electors to the Electoral College. In normal times the electors chosen represent the candidate who secured the most votes in their respective states.
These are not normal times.
If the legislators are demonically tied to Trump and willing to override the will of the people in their states, if they are willing to accept Trump’s false claims of voter fraud, it will take a Herculean effort to save our democracy.
As it is doubtful Trump will prevail in court to flip the vote totals in states he is contesting, Trump will be pressuring state legislatures not controlled by Democrats to override the popular vote. He will insist they send electors who will vote for him.
Will they stand up to him or be part of his Hydra demon?
In Pennsylvania, the Republican head of the legislature in on record as rejecting Trump’s overture. Yet, some of his colleagues are seeking an inquiry. Is an insurrection brewing? I have heard or seen nothing from leaders in Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin and Arizona.
I’ve been told by friends and my wife I am beyond paranoid to entertain such a dark devolution of the public will. But desperate despots will resort to any disreputable tactic to retain their power.
Does anyone seriously believe Trump would not stoop to such anti-democratic action?
Sending a rogue slate of electors has been done before. In 1876 the results of the election between Republican Rutherford B. Hayes and Democrat Samuel J. Tilden were thrown into a tizzy because both parties claimed victories in Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina. Each state sent two slates to the Electoral College. In addition, a single elector in Oregon was controversially replaced.
Long story short—a compromise was reached to swear in Hayes as president but only after he promised to allow Reconstruction in the South to dissolve. We are still paying the price for the Jim Crow laws Southerners then implemented to deny Blacks the right to vote and to enjoy equal education, equal rights and protections under the law. (For a full description of the events click here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1876_United_States_presidential_election.)
Am I being a Cassandra, warning of events hardly to happen? I hope so, but intricacies of the Electoral Count Act (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electoral_Count_Act ) leave much to the interpretation of judges, and right now too many Trumpian justices sit on the Supreme Court for my liking.
I’m not going to be comfortable until every state certifies their results based on the tabulations accepted by all but extreme Trump loyalists. It is demagogic and illogical for Trumpsters to praise vote totals for senators, congresspeople, and state legislatures that they won but not to accept the tally for president when all the candidates in each respective state appeared on the same ballot. But then, no one ever accused Trump and his cult of ever being logical.
Our system of government cannot afford to have Trump retain the most powerful office in the land. We have already seen his vindictiveness and his disregard for norms and laws. Constitutionally barred from a third term, his willful misuse of power would not be constrained, especially if the Senate remains Trumpian.
Circling back to the question of my being a Cassandra, let me point out that articles in reputable publications and Web sites have begun airing the same concerns. Here’s one from the New Yorker: https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/how-far-could-republicans-take-trumps-claims-of-election-fraud.
The election is over but the fight for control of the White House in 2021 continues.
Even more troubling is analysis that the threat posed by a demagogue more polished and less combative than Trump may be more sinister in years to come. Consider this article by Frank Rich in New York magazine published almost exactly three years ago: https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2017/11/frank-rich-trumpism-after-trump.html.
Once he vanquished the Hydra, Hercules went on to complete 10 more labors assigned him as penance for killing his wife and children. We, however, will have to remain ever vigilant that a new, fearsome political Hydra may yet return to strangle our democracy even as a Biden administration confronts the coronavirus pandemic, systemic racism, income inequality, infrastructure rebuilding, unemployment, climate change and foreign challenges.