The Sunday Driver, S2, E1: Yuletide Whistling Past the Graveyard

Good Sunday Evening to all, and we hope to find you and yours relatively well in this nascent New Year. I’m sure everyone is tan, rested and ready to return to the salt mines, even if they may now be situated at the dinette or den.

Whilst most folks prefer to start the year with hope, as congressional certification of the election looms and leers, waiting for Wednesday, this hope is the thinnest strip of light at the treeline, bordering democracy’s darkest skies. Or in the words of Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), “Right now, the most serious attempt to overthrow our democracy in the history of our of country is underway.”

So as we are wont to do, let’s stare the bleakness right in its face before we distract with tales of yore. The weary world has to date seen 85,070,000 total confirmed Covid-19 cases, with 1,845,444 souls lost, and over a half-million new cases reported as of yesterday. In the US, we have seen 20,906,094 total cases confirmed, 358,704 cumulative loved ones lost, 232,379 new daily cases and 2,110 folks long gone in one day. So at this pace, in about a month, our Covid-19 deaths will exceed the total US combat deaths from WW2.

Here in the beloved mitten, we have logged 497,127 total cases, 12,598 lost souls, and for a three-day tally, 8,983 newly reported cases and 265 loved ones expired. So, what say we think on something else, at least for a few turgid paragraphs of reminiscence?

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

If Andy Williams says it is so, we shan’t argue. The past month is and has always been the spiritual, emotional and commercial apex for time immemorial. It is marked on more than one faith calendar, but judging by programming, retailing and worship (not in that order), Christmas is the big daddy. Christmas, ironically, is inspired by pagan traditions from the Romans, Celtics, Norse, Druids, and more, originally having about zero to do with the Christ, until it did. At the time, all of these different groups shared one big Festivus that just happened to fall around “Christmastime”– the Winter solstice.

Humbly, for my personal part, we Urichs, extended family and plus-ones celebrate(d) a fairly standard-issue, mid-century Christmas, with the customary whistles, bells and floo-floobers. Growing up, I can in turn divide the experiences into four epochs: magical believing; magical non-believing; potentially magical romance episodes; occasionally magical parenting and beyond.

In the shiny-bright believing era, anything’s possible, and the whole world is illuminated by colored lights. I recall trips to the Northland or Tel-Twelve malls to see the big man himself. In fact, these sojourns became so iconic that the mere smell of Hot Sam Pretzels evokes Christmas every time. At Tel-Twelve, they would board up the huge fountain in the faux-atrium, and install a giant styrofoam igloo up there, with Santa’s throne underneath. Growing a bit older, it seemed as though bets were being hedged at my visits, but I did in fact get the Billy Blastoff astronaut set I longed for.

The non-believing era carried its own magic in the form of festooning, music, and frequent visitors, including my older brother’s very kind girlfriend and the Colonel, Grandpa Cook (U.S.A.-ret.), my Mother’s Dad. My Mom would cook up a storm for candlelit meals night after night, and my audiophile brother would play great Christmas selections over vintage stereo gear. No longer believing, I distinctly recall attempting to construct a periscope to try and see under the door and spy what treasures Mom was wrapping in the master bedroom. These are rich memories I will hold fast to; even Dad had more pep in his step, as he would commandeer the Magnavox for Dean Martin’s show, and let us keep the tree up ‘till New Year’s.

One particular season, I recall disappointment soon followed by joy. My Aunt Jane had promised me an SPV sled, and come the big day, she and Uncle Bob arrived with bundles, but it was just not there. I think she purposefully made little mention of it that day and all through a huge supper, perhaps as a test of sorts; I tried to display a stiff-upper. A few days after Christmas, as I was moping outside in the drizzle, a huge, green Hudson’s step-van pulled up, and the kindly deliveryman handed me my prize, still smelling of glue and shipping tape. Franklin Hill never hosted a happier kid.

By the time you can drive, you can also date, and young romance looms large in the host of Christmas memories for so many of us, bringing us to the third epoch. Unless you’re doing it wrong, by this time in your life you’ve realized giving is equal to or greater than receiving, and you kill yourself trying to hunt down the perfect expression of your yuletide ardor. Watching your most precious opening gifts is a peak experience, as now signified by trite ad campaigns such as “every kiss begins with Kay.”

In 1986, at 24 years of age, I spent my first and only Christmas Day away from home, venturing to South Florida. By the time we returned for a “late” Christmas get-together, my Dad was in the hospital. Though he made it to that Fall, I missed the last possible Christmas I could’ve had with him, and I deeply regret it. For our own part, Valkie and I take little for granted in this context, and act accordingly.

Lastly, climbing out on a rhythmic limb, as we soon become the parents ourselves, we again have the privilege, to be our own elves. Of passing and stowing traditions and foods, especially if we’re just not in the mood. And making a big circle, now I sound like a kook, with late-night assembling of electro-whocarnio flooks. We may be stressed, pressed and messed, from work or from school, but for the love of our families we find yuletide’s yule.

As evocative as Dickens, legit Theodore Geisel sums it up best:

Welcome Christmas. Bring your cheer,
Cheer to all Whos, far and near.
Christmas Day is in our grasp
So long as we have hands to grasp.
Christmas Day will always be
Just as long as we have we.
Welcome Christmas while we stand
Heart to heart and hand in hand.

Back to the Salt Mines

Enough happy glow already. Turning as we must toward potential disaster, this Wednesday Congress will ostensibly obey the Electoral Count Act of 1887 in conjunction with the 12th Amendment and declare Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. 46th President of the United States. Or not.

Dispensing some of the granular detail, the Electoral Act was adopted 10 years after the disputed 1876 presidential election. In that contest, several states submitted competing slates of electors and a divided Congress was unable to resolve the deadlock for about four months. Ultimately, in order to get their man R. B. Hayes into the White House, the GOP sold out every African American in the nation, and withdrew most federal troops from the South. Under the Compromise of 1877, Reconstruction was over, Antebellum attitudes were again ratified, and we still live with the Confederate consequences every damn day.

In the aftermath of two more close elections, Congress finally passed the Act in 1887 and has dutifully followed its procedures since then. Until maybe this Wednesday. According to the Congressional Research Service, the in-house think tank for Congress, the Act, together with several federal statutes applies to questions on contested electors. The CRS states “Objections to individual state returns must be made in writing by at least one Member each of the Senate and House of Representatives. If an objection meets these requirements, the joint session recesses and the two houses separate and debate the question in their respective chambers for a maximum of two hours.” Moving along, the CRS continues “The two houses then vote separately to accept or reject the objection. They then reassemble in joint session, and announce the results of their respective votes. An objection to a state’s electoral vote must be approved by both houses in order for any contested votes to be excluded.”

In this week’s context, two scenarios apply. The first is a situation where only one set of electoral votes is submitted by a state, and objections are raised on grounds that electoral votes were not “regularly given” by an elector, or that electors were not “lawfully certified” according to state laws. The second is when two or more slates of electors from the same state are submitted, which is next to impossible at this late hour, since all 50 states have duly certified their results, and about 90 judges have dismembered Trump’s efforts to stop the count.

Uncrossing your eyes for a minute, all the forgoing was a quaint theoretical exercise even after nut-bars in the House like Mo Brooks, Louie Gohmert, and Jim Jordan, et al, were joined by cravenly ambitious weasel Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) and telegraphed their intent to gum up the works. But now, with a reported 150 or so GOP Reps and at least a dozen GOP Senators announcing their seditious intent, shit may just go sideways.

The 117th Congress being seated today is presently comprised of 51 GOP Senators and 195 GOP Congresspersons. So, if the entire Senate conference objects to, say, Pennsylvania and Georgia, among other combos, and the House GOP conferees, together with 10 queasy Dems plus the two non-aligned folks go along, what happens? 36 electoral votes are taken from Biden’s score, and potentially, awarded to one Donald J. Trump. Now, throw in Nevada for good measure, and Trump would have 274 electoral votes to Biden’s 264. Then they’ll shortly be playing Hail to the Chief down at Mar-A-Loco.

While I (mostly) do not believe that the above outcome is likely, it is at least more than mathematically possible, given the lay of the land, 40 years of shrewd GOP disinformation and scare tactics, plus four years of utter lawlessness and constitutional vandalism. Revisiting the recent remarks of Sen. Murphy, “This is a party that has a whole bunch of enemies of democracy inside its top ranks. That’s bone-chilling.” And though their coup would be stylistically softened by claims of an “emergency 10-day audit,” and cloaked in legalize, we haven’t even gotten to the worst-case scenario yet, which is of course a form of civil war, regardless of Wednesday’s outcome.

Trumpocalypse Now

Way back on the eve of Trump’s 2016 stunner, I coined the term, “shambolism,” to wit: “a chaotic, scatter-gunning, spit-balling attack on convention, consistency, facts and logic. In shambolism, two entirely opposite ideas occupy the same space, truthfulness is rare, swift-boating reigns supreme and the process operates as sound cannon of illogic aimed at opponents, the press and voters alike.”

At that time, we were all having a laugh, and it was a one-off; there was no way this buffoon could win the most powerful post in the known universe. Well, the worst did indeed happen, and referencing the same piece, I opined “Trump grabbed dozens of debunked, hackneyed grievances of the right, blew them up into hordes of gargantuan, rampaging canards and produced a drive-in movie we can call Trumpocalypse.”

Well it’s happening again, right before our eyes. North of 74 million Americans are living in a digitally-driven, fact-free world without conscience. Potential majorities in the House and Senate are unfazed by the plain logic that setting aside any state’s votes at all, would mean setting aside votes by which dozens of them just won their own jobs. But I fear we have finally reached the crossroad of Orwellian double-speak and brutal tribalism, where these folks and their ardent base would prefer blowing it all to smithereens rather than let a CCP Demon-rat and an angry black lady (!) lead the republic out of its economic and biological hell. The garbled call to arms has been made and received.

But don’t take it from me. Mac Stipanovich, a respected and longtime Republican strategist, recently summed it up better than anyone could, stating “Trumpism is a specifically American iteration of generic fascism. Add to this the belief that any election Trump does not win is, ipso facto, rigged, as he maintained would be the case if he lost in 2016 and as he has insisted is the case since he lost in 2020.” Stipanovich continued, “This belief explains his ongoing attempts to overturn the election results by increasingly desperate means that look very much like sedition, not to mention the calls from his most extreme followers for a declaration of martial law and new elections administered by the military in swing states Trump lost.”

So rounding third and headed (thankfully) for home, I note some ominous moving parts. First, Ron Johnson (R-WI), one of 12 or so Senate confederates plotting the coup, and perhaps the biggest dolt in D.C., was lying so brazenly on Meet the Press today that NBC went to commercial rather than carry his dangerous message of fascist bullshit. This afternoon, an audio tape emerged upon which Trump mockingly bullies Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have. Because we won the state.” Lucky for humanity, Raffensperger responded “Respectfully, President Trump, what you’re saying is not true. The truth will come out.” And it did.

Over in the Middle East, proxies for Israel (us) and Iran (them), respectively, are blowing the crap out of each other in Yemen, while our Air Force B-52’s fly rehearsal sorties over the region. All 10 living former Secretaries of Defense, including Dick Freaking Cheney, just penned a dire warning regarding the dangerousness of Donald J. Trump. And right here in my own easy chair, a former Navy Seal popped up on my lappie, trying to sell me “4Patriot Survival Meals,” including America’s Mac & Cheese, Grammy’s Sweet Oatmeal, and Promised Land Powdered Milk. I am told I desperately need these items added to my survival food stockpile, that they’re delicious, and that they’ll keep for 25 years. This is not satire.

In the end analysis, the most critical individual player in this drama could be the Marshal of the Supreme Court, who may have to serve a writ upon Mr. Trump to physically remove him from office. And the most critical amalgam of persons? Those two-million-plus men and women of the uniformed military and law enforcement who will have to back the Marshal up, and persuade 74 million well-armed, purported adults that the election is over, and that their hero lost.

Assuming, of course, large numbers of them don’t secretly wish for the Trumpocalypse themselves.

Author: Bill Urich

A tail-end baby-boomer, Bill Urich was born in Cleveland to a grade school teacher and her Navy vet husband, and reared in Greater Detroit. Working his way through school primarily at night, Mr. Urich holds a Bachelor’s in Journalism, Phi Beta Kappa, and a Juris Doctorate from Wayne State University. In his legal career he has acted as an assistant state prosecutor, city attorney, special prosecutor, mediator, magistrate, private practitioner and mayor of Royal Oak, a large home-rule city in Michigan. Mr. Urich continues in private practice and municipal prosecution, is on faculty to DePaul University, pens regular contributions to political publications, and remains active in selected campaigns and causes related to labor, social and criminal justice. A father of three mostly-grown sons, he spends his precious free time on family, friends, the pursuit of happiness, beauty and truth, three rescue cats, and fronting the rock band Calcutta Rugs from behind the drum kit.