Asked what he sees as the biggest threat to the presidential election, former U.S. Representative and Senator for Colorado Tim Wirth responds: “Trump has an absolute deep fear of the word ‘loser,’ and that drives him to do almost anything to stay in office.”
Wirth grew up near 12th and Leyden, when the Mayfair neighborhood was still surrounded by prairie. Much of his adult life, however, he has represented Coloradans in Washington, D.C. He and former Colorado Sen. Gary Hart have been sounding the alarm bells for months about what they see as the president’s very real threat to our democracy. Their website, KeepOurRepublic.com, shares a selection of the opinion pieces they have published in Newsweek, the Boston Globe and elsewhere this year.
Threat to Voting
“Colorado has a superb system,” says Wirth. But he is concerned that “the president, by continuing to harp on voter fraud, is only making the American public lose faith in our democratic process. We’ve had success in pulling off elections for 230 years and we can do this one as well. But it’s very hard to do when you’re swimming upstream against a president who clearly doesn’t believe in the norms of our democratic society.” Wirth adds, “That’s not the role of a leader, to try to scare people.”
In addition to the president’s troubling rhetoric, Wirth notes that the administration said that it will have 30,000 poll watchers on election day. “I can’t imagine that those poll watchers are being hired to help little old ladies across the street. I’m very worried that there are going to be hundreds if not thousands of people out there trying to suppress the vote.”
Threat of Violence
As numerous commentators have shared in different media outlets, the higher proportion of mail-in ballots expected this election due to Covid means it could take weeks to get election results. Wirth predicts “a stormy time this fall.” Though he believes things will remain peaceful through Election Day, he seems less sure of the period after Nov. 3, as ballots are counted. “I think there’s every indication that the president’s going to challenge a lot of the results in a number of states and will attempt to disrupt the process of the Electoral College. And a lot of his supporters will be supportive of his illegal position and his wrong position and he’s stimulating them—as we saw in Wisconsin—to move to violence. It’s going to be a dangerous situation.”
Threat of Emergency Powers
Equally concerning for many is the possibility that the president could invoke emergency powers (as he has done several times already), to attempt to remain in office. Elizabeth Goitein, writing for the Brennan Center for Justice, says the National Emergencies Act “authorizes the president to declare a national emergency, which in turn gives him access to special powers set forth in more than 100 other provisions. Some of these powers seem more suited to a dictatorship than a democracy, like the authority to shut down communications systems, freeze Americans’ bank accounts and lend armed forces to other nations.” Surprised? You’re not alone.
“I think it’s still a surprise; most people do not know anything about these emergency powers. The Congress has never had hearings on them.” Wirth says Congress has “abdicated its authority” and “is failing as a coequal branch of government.” He hopes this will change. “It’s one of the things that the Congress has to attend to starting in 2021, to really illuminate these emergency powers and where do they come from, why do they exist, and which ones are appropriate and which ones are deeply unconstitutional.”
The Citizens’ Firewall
When asked what gives him hope, Wirth says he feels optimistic that people are slowly becoming aware of the looming dangers to our democracy. When he and Sen. Hart began speaking out about the threats to the republic a few months ago, people thought they were exaggerating. Now, however, more and more voices are joining theirs.
Our Founding Fathers knew how fragile and tenuous a republican form of government was, and emphasized the need for civic virtue and engagement to safeguard it. Vigilance remains essential. “I think it’s going to be a very close election, and that means that we really have to insist on the alertness and advocacy and understanding of millions and millions of Americans— what we would call a ‘citizens’ firewall.’ This has to be citizens at all levels of government, state and local officials, and political people and business people and civic groups have got to be prepared for what may be coming, and be extraordinarily patient during the days and weeks following November 3rd to insist the election be fully counted and to resist all of those who are trying to deny the democratic process.”
Visit www.keepourrepublic.com for more information.