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As we learned in the recording of his outrageous conversation with the Georgia Secretary of State, Trump will stop at nothing in his crazed efforts to cling to his office. He has lost interest in governing, but not in ruling. His base believes whatever claptrap he spews. Some theorize that it was Trump who released the recording of the conversation where he bullied Brad Raffensperger and tried to persuade him to “find” enough votes to reverse the results in Georgia. The recording allowed him to get all his nutty conspiracy theories into the public space, magnified by massive coverage. Since Georgia’s electoral votes would not be enough to change the outcome of the election, we can safely assume that Trump had similar conversations with state election officials in other states. He doesn’t seem to understand that the election is over. The votes were counted and recounted. The Electoral College met, and Biden won. The process on January 6 is supposed to be ceremonial not consequential. Trump’s surrogates sued to try to give the Vice-President the power to overturn the duly certified slates of electors and recognize alternate pro-Trump slates instead, but that lawsuit was dismissed in Texas by a federal judge appointed by Trump; when it was appealed to the Federal Appeals Court, a three-judge panel (all appointed by Republican presidents) affirmed the lower court decision to toss out the lawsuit.
However, Politico says that the call was recorded and released by the Georgia Secretary of State, for his own protection. He was burned once before by Lindsay Graham. Let’s give credit where credit is due: Secretary of State Raffensperger, a lifetime Republican, refused to be cowed by Graham; he refused to be cowed by Trump. He stood strong for election integrity, despite the pressure. He is an American hero.
The story of the extraordinary call of a president pushing a top election official to rig the Georgia results was broken by the superb reporting of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Greg Bluestein and the Washington Post’s Amy Gardner, but the backstory is almost as interesting.
It started on Saturday when Trump and his team reached out to talk to Raffensperger, who, according to an adviser, felt he would be unethically pressured by the president. Raffensperger had been here before: In November he accused Trump ally and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham of improperly exhorting him to meddle in the election to help Trump win Georgia. Graham later denied it.
So why not record the call with the president, Raffensperger’s advisers thought, if nothing else for fact-checking purposes. “This is a man who has a history of reinventing history as it occurs,” one of them told Playbook. “So if he’s going to try to dispute anything on the call, it’s nice to have something like this, hard evidence, to dispute whatever he’s claiming about the secretary. Lindsey Graham asked us to throw out legally cast ballots. So yeah, after that call, we decided maybe we should do this.”
The call took place Saturday afternoon. “Mr. President,” announced Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, at the top of the call, “everyone is on the line.” Little did he know. Trump made his ask and did most of the talking for the next hour, trafficking in the same conspiracy theories about election fraud that no court or criminal investigator has found credible. At the end of the call, Trump complains, “What a schmuck I was.”
Raffensperger’s team kept quiet about the call and the recording and waited. The president made the next move, claiming on Sunday morning via Twitter that Raffensperger was “unwilling, or unable, to answer” questions about his baseless claims of widespread voter fraud. “Respectfully, President Trump: What you’re saying is not true,” Raffensperger replied at 10:27 a.m. “The truth will come out.” It wasn’t an empty promise.
Now the best that Trump can hope for is to draw thousands of his rabid, armed supporters to the Capitol to threaten others and to create chaos. This won’t change the outcome of the election, unless Trump invokes the nineteenth-century Insurrection Act and declares martial law.
The Boston Globe published this editorial:
For worried residents of the District of Columbia, President Trump’s flailing efforts to overturn the results of a free and fair election that he lost no longer seem quite so funny. With the prospect of unrest in the nation’s capital when Trump’s loss is formalized on Wednesday, Republicans have run out of excuses for continuing to indulge Trump’s anti-democratic rants.
Not a single state or federal court has accepted the preposterous conspiracy theories floated by Trump and his supporters to explain his loss, ranging from zany stories of North Koreans smuggling ballots into Maine to supposed Sharpie malfunctions in Arizona. No election has been as thoroughly scrutinized as the 2020 vote, and even Trump’s own Justice Department acknowledges it couldn’t find any serious fraud, much less the vast plots of Trump’s imagination.
To their credit, state Republican officials in Georgia, Arizona, Michigan, and other states rejected those fictions. National Republicans, from Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell on down, have (belatedly) also acknowledged Joe Biden as the victor. In fact, the election wasn’t especially close: Democratic candidate Joe Biden won by more than 7 million votes, and with an Electoral College margin identical to Trump’s 2016 victory.Get Today in Opinion in your inboxGlobe Opinion’s must-reads, delivered to you every Sunday-Friday. Enter EmailSign Up
But the president remains immersed in his conspiratorial fantasyland, careening from one delusional idea to another, apparently in hopes that one fringe theory will finally pay off, a deus ex whackina that changes the ending of the 2020 election.
And on Wednesday, when Congress meets to formally certify Biden’s victory, Trump has called for his supporters to descend on Washington for a protest he said would be “wild.”
Of course, protesting is any American’s right. But especially considering the way the last gathering of Trump supporters in Washington descended into violence, lawmakers need to stop giving oxygen to his efforts and firmly reject expected challenges to the vote-certifying on Wednesday. Trump’s fellow Republicans have mostly indulged him by treating his complaints as plausibly legitimate. But that’s only emboldened what would otherwise be a crackpot fringe. By doing so, they’re risking a greater likelihood of trouble on the streets of Washington in the short term, and more lasting damage to trust in democracy in the long term.
Certifying an election is a ministerial job, not a policy decision; it’s not Congress’s job on Wednesday to say whether they like the results of an election or the way that states conducted their votes. Still, if even a single House member and a single senator object to a state’s electoral votes, it triggers a mandatory two-hour debate in Congress and then a vote on whether to accept the state’s votes. As of Saturday, eleven GOP senators and senators-elect had pledged to join House members in objecting to some states’ electoral votes. Trump and his supporters had been pushing members of Congress to object to states Biden won, and demanding that Vice President Mike Pence — who will preside over the count in a ceremonial capacity — switch Biden states to Trump, which he does not have the power to do. (In another dead-end lawsuit, some GOP lawmakers tried to change the law dating back to the 19th century to give Pence the authority to override voters.)
Seeking to avoid a debacle, McConnell lobbied Republican senators not to raise objections to Biden’s victories, apparently unsuccessfully. Meanwhile, according to a top aide, Pence supports the GOP lawmakers’ egregious plan to legitimize the president’s conspiracy theories on the floor of Congress.
Ever since election day, Republicans have generally defended Trump’s challenges to the outcome as within his legal rights. Likewise, insisting on a floor debate on individual states’ presidential votes is perfectly legal. But what is legally permissible and what is right for a polarized and frazzled country aren’t the same.
The country needs to turn the page not just on Trump, but also the toxic brand of conspiracism that he’s mainstreamed into American politics. That won’t be easy. But members of Congress ought to do their part by publicly rejecting Trump’s conspiracy-laced demands to subvert the electoral count, and recognizing Biden’s clear victory. Those who do not don’t deserve to be in public office in a democracy.