Potential for More Violence before Inauguration Definite, Ex-White House Official Says
- January, 12, 2021 - 13:21
- World news
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – A former assistant director for national security in the White House Office of Science and Technology said there is definitely the potential for more violence across the US before President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated at noon on January 20.
“Trump definitely called his supporters to overthrow the election with the false claim that it had been stolen from him. I hope that there will be no more violence but there is definitely the potential. The danger is compounded by the huge number of guns that Americans own,” Frank N. von Hippel, a senior research physicist and professor of Public and International Affairs, Emeritus, at Princeton University, told Tasnim in an interview.
Following is the full text of the interview.
Tasnim: A push by Democrats in Congress to impeach Donald Trump for a second time is running into resistance in the US Senate, with senior lawmakers on both sides of the aisle voicing their opposition. Democrats were to introduce a motion to the House of Representatives on Monday calling on Mike Pence, the vice-president, to strip Trump of his office following last week’s violence by the president’s supporters in Washington, DC. If Pence fails to do so, they plan to vote to impeach Trump later this week, making it likely he would be the first US president to be impeached twice. A look across polls conducted since riots at the Capitol on Wednesday shows that a clear plurality of Americans overall want Trump out of office, even as President-elect Joe Biden is set to be inaugurated on January 20. Do Americans support impeaching Trump? What will happen?
Hippel: I agree that the majority of Americans want Trump out of office. They voted that way and their views have been strengthened by his efforts to overthrow the election. He will be out in (a few) days. It would be helpful to the ending of his political influence after Biden comes into office on January 20, however, if at least one-third of Republicans in the Senate had the courage to vote with the Democrats to eject him from office and prevent him from running for president again. Currently, the Senate is split 50:50 Democrat and Republican. A two-thirds vote in the Senate is required to eject him. I was encouraged that only eight of 52 Republican Senators were willing to vote to support Trump’s lie that the election had been stolen from him but voting against him will require more courage.
Tasnim: Americans’ confidence in their democracy has been eroded for years by a system that has, at various junctures, delivered victory to Republican presidents who lost the popular vote, permitted industrial-scale gerrymandering of electoral maps, and is built around a Congress rigged in favor of conservative states. But faith in the conduct of the presidential election itself has collapsed among large numbers of voters amid Donald Trump’s onslaught after he lost November’s presidential election to his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, by a record 7m ballots. Inequality, racism, and polarization ravaged US democracy. Then came Trump. What are your thoughts on this? What are the reasons behind the erosion of US democracy?
Hippel: Racism has been our original and persistent sin, starting with the protection of slavery that was built into our 1787 constitution. This is one reason for the electoral system for presidential elections, which favors low-population, agricultural states, and the non-representative makeup of the Senate in which each state has two Senators even though California has a population of 40 million and Wyoming a population of 0.6 million. The easiest remedy to the situation with regard to the Presidential election is to have states agree that they will cast their votes to align with the popular vote. So far, states with 196 electoral votes have agreed. This compact will come into force when states with 270 votes out of the 535 in the electoral college have joined.
“Gerrymandering” is another weakness of our system. It involves the majorities in state legislatures maintaining their majorities without having a majority of voters by drawing the boundaries of legislative districts within states so that their party wins the majority of seats in the state legislature even if it does not receive the majority of the votes. This is done by organizing the districts so that, for example, the districts of the opposition contain 90% opposition voters while the districts of the controlling party contain 60% of that party’s voters. The state’s delegation to the House of Representatives can be similarly skewed. The remedy is to have nonpartisan or bipartisan groups draw the district maps, which is done every ten years. So far, we have 11 states that do this plus 6 where there is no issue because the state has only one member in the House of Representatives.
Making the Senate more representative of the public will is the most difficult and would require amending the constitution, which requires a two-thirds vote in both Houses of Congress and ratification by three-quarters of the states or a constitutional convention convened by two-thirds of the states.
Tasnim: Some media outlets in the US have called the day of the assault "America's day of shame". They did not just blame the mob but Trump as well who "lit the fire and his gutless colleagues fanned the flames". Will the US witness more political vandalism in the coming days?
Hippel: Trump definitely called his supporters to overthrow the election with the false claim that it had been stolen from him. I hope that there will be no more violence but there is definitely the potential. The danger is compounded by the huge number of guns that Americans own.