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Scrapping Electoral College could stop a tyrant

By Martin Dyckman • Guest Columnist | During the Spanish Civil War, which the Fascists won, one of their generals said there was a “fifth column” inside Madrid that would capture the capital before any of their four advancing formations could reach the city. Ever since, the phrase has stood for any group of disloyal people aiming to subvert their own country.

There is now a fifth column in the United States of America. You probably saw elements of it on television Jan. 6, capturing and desecrating our national Capitol, the symbol of our democracy, causing five fatalities — including the murder of a police officer — and disrupting the Congress as it was certifying the results of the presidential election.

The mob’s purpose was to overturn the vote count and keep Donald Trump in the White House, where he would become a dictator in the manner of Spain’s Francisco Franco or Italy’s Benito Mussolini.

It was Trump with his tweets who summoned the mob to Washington, promising that it would “be wild,” and it was Trump’s spoken words that sent them to attack the Congress.

He is the most prominent fifth columnist.

But as the mob carried out his command, there were already fifth columnists at work inside the Capitol.

They were the 138 Republican members of the House and seven in the Senate who were poised to throw out millions of votes that had been legally cast in Arizona and Pennsylvania for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. They, too, were willing to make Trump a dictator, and they cast those votes after the mob attack had demonstrated so vividly why they shouldn’t. 

Among those fifth columnists: Madison Cawthorn, the new congressman from our 11th North Carolina district. Earlier, he had helped Trump whip up the mob. 

They failed to overturn the election, but that does not diminish the morbid evil of their intent. 

It isn’t clear whether Cawthorn was just playing along, so as to keep the support of this district’s numerous Trumpists, or whether he is really stupid enough to believe Trump’s staggering lies about a stolen election. It’s probably the latter. Either way, his first votes were a disgrace to his office, this district and himself. 

It’s a pity that there are not recall elections. 

What Cawthorn did achieve was to help perpetuate the poisonous myth that Democrats stole the election — a concocted lie rejected by judges in more than 60 court cases. Ironically, the Republicans can thank that, and themselves, for losing the two Georgia Senate seats that are tipping the chamber to Democratic control.

That the Democrats didn’t win a larger majority outright and lost much of their edge in the House certainly gives the lie to the stolen election myth. But the myth remains in the propaganda arsenal of the fifth column. 

There is an urgent need to look at how America elects its presidents, but not in any way related to myths of election fraud.

The Electoral College has already produced five presidents, including Trump, who didn’t win the popular vote.

And if just 21,461 votes in three key states that Biden won had gone the other way, Trump would have won the presidency against despite losing the popular vote by more than 7 million nationwide.

Those states are Wisconsin, Georgia and Arizona, the three swing states where the Biden-Harris ticket won by the smallest margins. Losing them would have meant a 269-269 electoral vote tie, forcing the election into the House. Each state has only one vote in such a situation, and Republicans control more delegations than the Democrats do.

Trump appears to know enough about how the Electoral College really works that the significance of those three states stoked his rage and subversive attempts to overthrow the election by intimidating state officials and the Congress itself. 

The bizarre telephone call demanding that Georgia’s secretary of state “find” him another 11,780 votes demonstrates the danger of staking the presidency on 51 separate elections.

It would be much harder to challenge the national popular vote. One way or another, that’s why we need to replace the Electoral College before the Fifth Column has any more opportunities to subvert America.

(Martin Dyckman is a retired journalist who now lives in Western North Carolina. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

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